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County residents call for broadband bucks

Speeds terrible, survey finds, and service essential

Just over half of Sturgeon County residents want county council to put down cash to speed up the region’s sluggish internet.

Sturgeon County council got the results of its recent broadband internet speed tests and surveys on Sept. 22.

Council ordered staff to survey residents and do internet speed tests in June as part of a plan to expand access to broadband services in the county.

Broadband has become significantly more important during the pandemic as more people have gone online for school, shopping and business, council heard.

A recent report for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board found Sturgeon County could add about $12.51 million a year to its GDP if it had county-wide access to 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds in line with the CRTC’s national broadband target. Current advertised speeds in the county are about 25 Mbps and the lowest in the capital region.

County staff surveyed 352 residents and 34 business owners in August and September about the state of their broadband.

The survey found 97.7 per cent of residents said household internet access was very important or essential, with 95 per cent having at least three online-connected devices in their home. About half paid for speeds of 25 Mbps or less, and most were dissatisfied with the speed, value and reliability of their service. About 53 per cent said the county should partner with the private sector and invest as needed to boost broadband speeds.

The business survey found similar results, with about 56 per cent saying faster broadband would allow them to provide better customer service. Some 64 per cent said speeds of 50 to 100 Mbps would meet their needs.

Speed test results posted at confirmed most of county experienced download speeds well below 25 Mbps as of Sept. 24 – one site reported 0.43 Mbps – with just a handful meeting or exceeding the CRTC target of 50.

Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said broadband access in the county was in definite need of improvement, adding this could be a regional problem in need of regional investment.

Council heard administration would now develop target speeds for broadband in the county and make recommendations during this fall’s budget talks on how the county could improve internet access.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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