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Sturgeon County pumps $300K more into broadband

Money to plan rollout to rest of county
Sturgeon County is kicking over $300,000 to continue the next phase of broadband work in the area. The county allocated some $7.55 million in spending last year for the first phase of the network, which was now rolling out in the Villeneuve region. FILE/ St. Albert Gazette

Sturgeon County dialed up a $300,000 broadband boost last Tuesday to kick-start the next phase of its high-speed Internet network.

County council allocated $300,000 Tuesday Oct. 11 to start work on future phases of the Sturgeon County Broadband Initiative.

Like many parts of rural Alberta, Sturgeon County has for years struggled with slow, unreliable Internet access, hampering work-from-home employees and remote learning during the pandemic.

A 2020 study by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board found that Sturgeon County had the lowest maximum advertised Internet speeds in the region at 25 megabits per second — roughly half the CRTC’s target of 50 Mbps. Despite this, the county was currently not eligible for federal grants meant to improve broadband access in remote regions as it was too close to the high-speed region that was Edmonton. The county also lacked the population base needed to attract high-speed networks built by major Internet providers.

County council decided last year to build its own high-speed network to address these problems. It allocated some $7.55 million in spending last year for the first phase of the network, which was now rolling out in the Villeneuve region.

In an update from county information services manager Rob Schneider last Tuesday, council learned that six teams with the Canadian Fiber Optics Corporation were now laying fibre optic lines around Villeneuve, Calahoo, Rivière Qui Barre, and the Pro North and Heritage industrial park, and hoped to have this work done before winter. It was not yet clear when the network would become operational.

Schneider recommended that the county work with contractors to plan the next phase of its broadband rollout as well as the necessary public consultation for it.

Coun. Kristin Toms said she hoped this $300,000 would help convince the federal and provincial governments to support the county’s broadband project, noting how a lack of reliable broadband kept county residents from doing remote work or schooling.

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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