Province announces fiscal support for rural broadband

The Hamlets of Gleichen and Cluny, as well as Siksika Nation are among more than 50 communities within Alberta to have been selected to receive broadband funding.

The governments of Canada and Alberta have committed to investing $70.6 million to providing more than 10,400 homes across the province access to high-speed internet.

The announcement, made Sept 26, marks the first funding allocation by the governments for projects qualifying for what is being called the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF).

This project is part of Alberta’s Broadband Strategy, which consists of a $390 million commitment to be invested in over four years to improve high-speed internet infrastructure in rural, remote and First Nations communities.

The federal government has committed to matching Alberta’s investment, bringing the total project contribution between the governments to $780 million.

Minister of Service with the Government of Alberta, Nate Glubish, said improving access to high-speed internet is one of the most powerful things that can be done to support rural, remote and First Nations communities province-wide.

“A reliable internet connection unlocks access to the essential services we rely on every day, supporting everything from online learning to better home health care,” he said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is just the first of many to come and represents another step towards our goal of ensuring universal connectivity for all families and businesses in Alberta.”

According to the province, the Broadband Strategy is estimating the creating of 1,500 jobs during the development of the project’s necessary infrastructure.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development, Nate Horner, said the project will help establish services to some of the province’s most underserved communities.

“We all know that many of the educational and economic opportunities of the future are found online, and this funding for better broadband will help our rural communities seize those opportunities, which will go a long way in helping them attract newcomer to sustain and grow, and allow our famers to compete on the world stage,” said Horner.

The province has stated, based on data collected during development of the broadband strategy, roughly 489,000 Albertans residing in 201,000 households lack access to federal target speeds of 50 Mbps download, and 10 Mbps upload speeds.

Similarly, approximately 80 per cent of First Nations communities, and 67 per cent of rural and remote communities do not have access to reliable high-speed internet.

The governments intend to make additional announcements as more of hundreds of projects are evaluated to determine which are best able to accomplish the overall goal to achieve universal connectivity.

Alberta has stated a commitment to delivering universal connectivity throughout the province by the end of the 2026-27 fiscal year.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times