County council wants its residents to take part in a speed test meant to help power up rural broadband.
Sturgeon County council voted June 30 to spend $69,000 on a series of actions to improve broadband Internet access in the county.
The recent pandemic has made reliable broadband access all the more important in the county for work, education and communication, corporate services director Jesse Sopko told council. The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board has flagged broadband service as a driver of global economic competitiveness.
But broadband speeds in the county are dismal, council heard. A 2018 study by the county and the Town of Morinville found average download speeds of 10.3 megabits per second in the county, far below the federal standard of 50 and the Alberta average of 13.5. About 85 per cent of respondents to that study felt the county should work to improve broadband services.
“Many residents and businesses are not getting the Internet service they need,” said information services manager Rob Schneider. Internet providers don’t see rural areas as worth more investment, and only a fraction of Sturgeon County qualifies for federal broadband improvement grants.
Schneider said the county would hold Internet speed tests and resident surveys this August and September to help the county understand community needs and qualify for future grants. He also sketched out a strategy whereby the county could pay to bring high-speed fibre optic lines into its industrial parks so businesses and residents could access them.
Council heard that administration would report the results of the speed tests and surveys this Sept. 22.