Notifications

COVID-19 Updates: Taking steps to return to normal.

Alberta broadband strategy

Overview

Investing to connect Albertans and grow the economy.

Overview

Alberta’s broadband strategy identifies the unique opportunities and challenges of improving access to broadband connectivity and sets a clear path to eliminate the digital divide as quickly as possible.

We are committed to working with all levels of government and the private sector to increase investment into rural connectivity and achieve 100% connectivity by the end of fiscal year 2026/27.

These steps will help attract investment, encourage new economic development and create opportunities in every industry, from healthcare to education and from tourism to hospitality.

This strategy is a key part of Alberta's Recovery Plan to build, diversify and to create good jobs for Albertans in across our province.

Progress

We are committed to providing advocacy and strategic support to deliver universal connectivity in Alberta by the end of fiscal year 2026-27.

  • Spectrum advocacy

    Ongoing advocacy to the federal government for spectrum policy change.

    2021 onward
  • Funding application review

    Work with the federal government to review Alberta-focused Universal Broadband Fund applications.

    Late 2021
  • Negotiations

    Secure additional matching funding with the federal government.

    Spring/Summer 2022
  • Announce projects

    Announce the first round of approved projects.

    Spring 2022
  • Construction

    Construction begins for first round of projects.

    Spring/Summer 2022
  • Announce projects

    Announce the second round of approved projects.

    Spring 2023
  • Construction

    Constructions begins for second round of projects.

    Spring/Summer 2023
  • Announce projects

    Announce the third round of approved projects.

    Spring 2024
  • Construction

    Constructions begins for third round of projects.

    Spring/Summer 2024
  • Announce projects

    Announce the fourth round of approved projects.

    Spring 2024
  • Construction

    Constructions begins for fourth round of projects.

    Spring/Summer 2024
  • Announce projects

    Announce the second round of approved projects.

    Spring 2023
  • Universal connectivity

    100% of homes access federal target speeds.

    End of fiscal year 2026-27

Numbers at a glance

Nearly 489,000 Albertans do not have access to the internet speeds they need to work and learn from home.

67% of rural Albertans and 80% of Indigenous communities do not have access to reliable high-speed internet at federal target speeds.

Reaching 100% connectivity in Alberta will cost approximately $1 billion - we've already secured a total of $780 million in public funding from the Governments of Alberta and Canada.

The problem

  • Photo of country road
    Eliminating the digital divide

    We worked with municipalities, Indigenous communities and the telecommunications industry to understand how big Alberta’s connectivity problem is, and what is required to fix it.

    To solve this problem, our efforts will focus on improving access, affordability and quality.

  • Access

    67% of rural Albertans and more than 80% of Indigenous communities do not have access to reliable high-speed internet at federal target speeds.

    This represents approximately 201,000 households, or 489,000 Albertans, who are at an economic disadvantage to their peers living in urban centres.

    Factors contributing to Alberta’s digital divide include low population density, distance from core network infrastructure, and challenging terrain. Each of these factors limit the business case for private investors to deliver services to underserved communities.

    Rural Albertans faced similar issues with the development of electricity, natural gas, and traditional telephone lines. Rural Alberta was the last to be connected because of the challenging economics of providing other core services to the most remote regions of the province.

  • Affordability

    Albertans will see few benefits of broadband deployment if the cost for services are unsustainable or too high to stay connected.

    Factors impacting overall affordability include:

    • cost of building new infrastructure
    • long distances to core infrastructure
    • geographical barriers
    • low population density
    • federal policy on spectrum auctions, licences and rights
    • private sector partner capacity

    Other challenges, such as delays in getting fibre technology, wireless infrastructure, and other electronics, also prevent us from deploying broadband all at once, even if the funding was available.

    For these reasons, our phased approach will ensure that we do not overpay for connectivity improvements.

    While pricing of internet services is federal jurisdiction and beyond the province’s direct control, we will work to ensure affordability is a consideration throughout our implementation.

  • Quality

    Telecommunications networks can experience outages or failures resulting from a range of causes, including oversubscribed wireless infrastructure, cold weather, or damage incurred to fibre cables. In addition to these challenges, some communities have identified circumstances where actual connection speeds in their areas are lower than what is advertised.

    Data collected by the federal government shows Internet Service Provider claims for which communities have access to connections at or above the universal connectivity target speeds, however, data does not currently show the actual delivered speeds for each location.

    As broadband is deployed, investment must focus on solutions with strong and resilient networks that minimize potential outages, maintain consistency, and provide high-quality services to Albertans.

The solution

Reaching 100% connectivity in Alberta will depend on technology solutions, funding support, and policy reform.

Technology

A range of technological solutions will be required to meet the unique needs and characteristics of each community, while maintaining a sustainable, cost-effective approach to achieving universal connectivity. These include fibre-to-the-home, fixed wireless access, and low earth orbit satellite technologies.

  • Wifi icon
    Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH)

    Speeds: high
    Reliability: high

    Primarily in underserved rural and Indigenous areas within or on the edges of cities and towns that have sufficient population density and proximity to a fibre interconnection point.

    • Expected to be used in cities and towns.
    • Will serve rural and Indigenous communities that are close enough to cities and towns that have sufficient population density and proximity to a fibre connection point.
  • Fixed Wireless Access icon
    Fixed wireless access (FWA)

    Speeds: medium
    Reliability: medium

    Primarily in less dense rural and Indigenous areas where existing wireless infrastructure is already present and distances between dwellings is larger.

    • Expected to be used primarily in rural municipalities, villages, summer villages, some First Nations and some Metis Settlements.
    • Will be used where distance to existing infrastructure is available.
  • Low Earth Orbit Satellite (LEO) icon
    Low earth orbit satellite (LEO)

    Speeds: medium
    Reliability: TBD

    Primarily in areas with very low population densities and challenging terrain. Distance from existing infrastructure would usually mean that fibre-to-the-home and fixed wireless access are not feasible solutions.

    • Expected to be used in some rural municipalities, First Nations and Metis Settlements.
    • Will be used where low population density and distance from existing infrastructure is an issue.

Funding

Alberta’s government has secured an additional matching agreement with the Government of Canada. Total public investment has increased to $780 million, with $390 million committed from each the Province of Alberta and the Government of Canada.

This funding will unlock a significant amount of private sector investment, and will be available to support Alberta-based broadband projects.

Policy

Regulatory decisions regarding telecommunications are a matter of federal jurisdiction. Some existing policies create challenges for private sector investment into rural connectivity infrastructure and the expansion of broadband in Alberta.

We are advocating for spectrum policy changes that includes:

  • ensuring that rural and urban regions are not managed in the same service areas for spectrum licensing purposes, to better support development in underserved rural, remote, and Indigenous communities
  • strengthening and enforcing a “use it or lose it” framework for spectrum licensing that ensures spectrum is more readily available to providers who can demonstrate intent to provide services to the region
  • ensuring policies discourage the acquisition and resale of spectrum licences as a financial asset, and that buyers have realistic plans to develop the spectrum region

If the federal government adopts these changes, the economics of broadband will be improved and private sector investment can reach more rural Alberta communities with improved fixed wireless solutions.

Benefits

Access to reliable high-speed internet is one of the simplest things that can be achieved to continue to grow and diversify Alberta’s economy, strengthen our workforce, build for the future, and help Albertans.

Support economic growth and recovery by returning up to $1.7 billion in annual GDP growth to Alberta through improved connectivity for households and businesses.

Increase GDP in the agricultural sector by up to 5% through increased productivity and application of AgTech.

Create up to 1,500 jobs in Alberta to deploy and install the broadband technology needed to increase coverage.

Create thousands more jobs and opportunities across sectors as the economy grows and diversifies.

Foster reconciliation efforts by ensuring Indigenous communities are connected, have access to the services they need, and can participate meaningfully in our digital economy.

Ensure province-wide access to remote education for over 120,000 students, leading to better employment outcomes.

Improve access to healthcare for up to 40,000 Albertans who cannot currently access a primary care provider, reducing travel time and cost of accessing healthcare for patients.

Provide a digital ecosystem supportive of innovation and transformation, allowing Albertans to embrace these technologies to improve their daily lives.