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New company takes over St. Albert fibre optic network project

Fibre Connect contracts with city to finish $100M installation started by Telus
Most of St. Albert should have access to fibre optic network by end of next year, the city says. FILE/Photo

More than a year after Telus informed the City of St. Albert it had to put an indefinite hold on its $100 million fibre optic network installation project, the city announced last week a new company has been granted access to city-owned right of ways to finish the job.

Although a new company, Fibre Connect, will be taking over, company spokesperson Kit McLean said in an email that Telus and Fibre Connect are working in “partnership.”

“This project, conducted in partnership with TELUS, will bring the same network quality as TELUS PureFibre to 90 per cent of homes and businesses in the area that do not yet have access to fibre-optic services by the end of 2025,” McLean said.

The city announced on May 31 that crews will be getting to work this summer installing fibre optic infrastructure in the handful of neighbourhoods that have yet to be connected to the network, such as Kingswood, Grandin, Heritage Lakes, and Lacombe Park.

Fibre optics are long and very thin strands of glass that, arranged together, transmit data-infused light. This data is what you see on a computer, phone, or television screen. Because of its data load-bearing capacity, or bandwidth, and transmission speed capability, fibre optic is replacing existing technology, such as copper wires. 

“Fibre Connect will own the new fibre optic network and will lease space on the network to telecommunications firms, which will offer various services to residents and businesses who wish to access them,” the city's news release reads. “This installation work will be completed by the installer and there is no requirement for residents to contact the city.”

The release says residents and businesses in the affected areas will need to decide if they want Fibre Connect to install the fibre optic connection to their home or business from the property line. Once installed, residents will then need to purchase fibre optic services from the telecommunications firms that eventually lease space on the network.

“It is important to note that the city has no ownership role in the Fibre Connect fibre optic network,” the city's release says. “The city is not responsible for the construction schedule, the order of installation, or the services that will eventually be provided to residents and businesses.”

“Any changes to the construction schedule will be communicated by Fibre Connect directly.”

Fibre Connect staff have already started visiting residents and businesses “to explain the process and seek permission for installations, ensuring that residents are fully informed and agreeable before any work is conducted on their property,” said McLean.

Coun. Mike Killick, who put forward a motion in May of 2023 asking Mayor Cathy Heron to write a letter to Telus asking the company to “honour its original commitment,” said in an interview he was glad to see the fibre optic installation work continue in St. Albert, regardless of the company behind the project.

RELATED: Council to send letter to Telus after pause in fibre rollout

“I'm very glad to see that connection to fibre optic services is proceeding,” Killick said. “I've had lots of requests from different residents in the older neighbourhoods in particular, where the old copper lines were not very reliable for some of the higher speed internet services and working from home or students learning at home.”

Killick said seeing a new company take over from Telus was not what he was expecting, but in the end he doesn't think residents care which company is doing the work as long as the work gets done.

“This still serves the customers needs,” he said.

Telus first committed to installing a fibre optic network in St. Albert in 2019, but in May last year, city council learned inflation, interest rates, and the federal government's decision in 2022 to ban the use of equipment produced by Chinese telecommunications company Huawei in Canada put a wrench in Telus' plans.

“[Telus has] had to dismantle Huawei infrastructure on all of their antennas and so, primarily, we're seeing pressures on the capital that they had available for all builds across Alberta,” said Joanne Graham, the city's director of information technology, during a council meeting in May 2023.

At the time, Telus had connected 37 of 57 segmented parts of the city to a fibre optic network.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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