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High-speed Internet access coming to unserviced rural areas

Low density satellite solution ensures access for 97 % of Albertans.

The Alberta government is looking to the land and sky to provide reliable, high-speed Internet access to Albertans in unserviced rural areas.

The provincial government is committing $10.5 million toward making high-speed Internet available to an estimated 43,600 households currently without access using a variety of approaches, including satellite, wireless and other technologies.

“This $10.5 million in funding is the next step in our government’s Final Mile Rural Connectivity Initiative to ensure Albertans have access to high-speed Internet available no matter where they live in the province,” said Manmeet Bhullar, Minister of Service Alberta. “We are delivering on Premier Redford’s commitment that at least 98 per cent of Albertans have access to this vital service. In fact, with the low-density satellite solution alone, 97 per cent of Albertans will have access by Summer 2012.”

The province is committing $9.5 million to support work with Internet service providers to add infrastructure to the remainder of unserviced areas in rural Alberta, including the extreme north and south of the province, and expand the reach of high-speed Internet. A Request for Comments with draft bidding guidelines will be posted shortly. Tenders for service in these areas will be released later this year through an open and competitive procurement process following the Request for Comments.

The technology to reach unserviced parts of the province will be determined based on what works best for a specific area and on what infrastructure is already available in the region.

The Government of Alberta is also making up to $900,000 available for a remote area satellite solution that will reduce the distance costs of accessing high-speed Internet for Albertans living in low-density, remote areas of the province. The government is sharing this plan with municipalities, ISPs and other interested parties to seek input and maximize the benefit of the program. Albertans living in remote areas will be able to access improved satellite services at a reduced cost by this summer.

“Access to high-speed Internet is essential for all Albertans,” said Evan Berger, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. “This initiative will help bring service to unserviced areas - keeping people connected and helping to ensure continued economic competitiveness and vitality of our rural communities.”

The $10.5 million for the Final Mile Rural Connectivity Initiative is in addition to the $5-million Rural Community Program announced in January to support local governments that plan to provide high-speed Internet in their communities.

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Backgrounder: Final Mile Rural Connectivity Initiative

Media inquiries may be directed to:

Gerald Kastendieck
Communications
Service Alberta
780-427-6699
gerald.kastendieck@gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.

Backgrounder

Final Mile Rural Connectivity Initiative

The Final Mile Rural Connectivity Initiative (FMRCI) is the Alberta government’s strategy to ensure reliable, high-speed Internet is available to at least 98 per cent of Albertans. About 43,600 rural Alberta households are currently without access to high-speed Internet service.

Alberta’s SuperNet program was a major step in expanding the reach of the Internet throughout the province, connecting schools, hospitals, libraries and other public facilities to the Internet in 429 urban and rural communities. Private sector Internet service providers have taken advantage of the SuperNet’s infrastructure to offer access to residents and businesses in more than 260 communities.

The goal of FMRCI is to close most of the remaining gaps where service is still unavailable.

Phase 1

The first phase of the FMRCI was announced in January by Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar, and Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Evan Berger. The Alberta government is committing $5 million to support municipalities, First Nations and Metis Settlements that have plans ready to deliver high-speed Internet access to their communities. Called the Rural Community Program, this funding will support 75 per cent of eligible project costs to help pay for needed infrastructure such as towers and fibre optic cable, installation costs, and other related expenses.

Phase 2

Phase two is up to $900,000 to reduce the distance costs of accessing high-speed satellite Internet for Albertans in low-density remote areas. The program will ensure residents do not pay distance charges for equipment installation for each household that signs up for the service. With this low-density satellite solution alone, 97 per cent of Albertans will have access to high-speed Internet by Summer 2012. The government is seeking input from municipalities, Internet Service Providers and other interested parties to address any concerns. Eligible Albertans will be able to access improved satellite services at a reduced cost by Summer 2012.

Phase 3

For phase three, the government is working with Internet service providers to add infrastructure to the remainder of unserved areas in rural Alberta, including the extreme north and south of the province, with the goal of expanding the reach of high-speed Internet to the entire province. A Request for Comments with draft bidding guidelines will be posted shortly. Tenders for service will be released later this year through an open and competitive procurement process following the Request For Comments. The Alberta government has committed $9.5 million to support this phase of the initiative.


Phase 4

An 'Infill Program' will be developed to provide service to rural Albertans located in served rural areas who still cannot access high-speed Internet in their area (perhaps due to terrain challenges, tree lines, technology limitations, etc.).

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Media inquiries may be directed to:

Gerald Kastendieck
Communications
Service Alberta
780-427-6699
gerald.kastendieck@gov.ab.ca

To call toll free within Alberta dial 310-0000.