By Cole Parkinson
Rural Albertans have been asking for high-speed Internet for some time now, and the provincial government is hopeful to provide that service as soon as possible.
According to the Alberta government, nearly 489,000 Albertans do not have access to the internet speeds they need to work and learn from home and 67 per cent of rural Albertans and 80 per cent of Indigenous communities do not have access to reliable high-speed internet at federal target speeds. The provincial government projects reaching 100 per cent connectivity in the province will cost around $1 billion. So far, $780 million in public funding has been secured from both the provincial and federal governments.
“That’s with Service Alberta right now and Nate Glubish is doing a great job rolling that out. We’ve got a billion dollars that will go into the cost of being able to roll out high-speed rural broadband. That is going to be a third by the feds, a third by the province, and a third by the private sector,” explained Grant Hunter, Taber-Warner MLA. “I think they are in the process of doing some RFPs right now and so we’ll have to see how they come in. If we do it right, I think this will be a great benefit to rural Alberta. As you can see with the pandemic, people need access to the Internet, especially kids going to school. They had to get online and do their schooling online, and that rural broadband is really important.”
The government also takes they are “committed to providing advocacy and strategic support to deliver universal connectivity in Alberta by the end of the fiscal year 2026-27.” As a rural MLA, Hunter also sees plenty of people living in urban centres looking to move out into the country. But with poor Internet in some rural areas, Hunter says providing high-speed connectivity is paramount.
“Think of it this way as well — lots of people want to get out of the city and businesses are starting to move away from going in and working at a brick and mortar. Now, we can have them work remotely and they can move into these smaller communities where the prices aren’t as high and the lifestyle is more to their liking.”
When Rogers went out earlier this summer, that also was another eye-opening issue presented to Canadians. It left many without the ability to call, text, or use the Internet, and many businesses were unable to use debit machines.
“I didn’t receive any phone calls from constituents but I did talk to people in other parts of the province that were affected by that. They weren’t able to use their ATM machine or whatever. It was kind of an eye-opener,” stated Hunter.
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