RMWB, Telus partner on $21-million project bringing high-speed internet to rural areas

·2 min read

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) and Telus hope to bring high-speed internet to more than 90 percent of homes and businesses to most rural communities in the region by the end of 2023. Construction begins spring 2022.

The $21-million infrastructure project includes $13.2 million from the municipality and $7.8 million from Telus. Once completed, the service will be offered to all rural hamlets, First Nations and Métis communities south of Fort McMurray, as well as Fort McKay First Nation and Fort McKay Métis. Fort Chipewyan was not included in the project. The company has invested $14.5-billion in infrastructure and operations across Alberta through 2024.

COVID-19 shutdowns heightened the need for reliable internet, particularly in rural areas that have often lagged behind cities and larger communities. Internet speeds in rural communities outside Fort McMurray can be as much as 80 percent slower than within city limits. Mayor Don Scott said bringing modern internet speeds to rural and Indigenous communities has been a major priority for the municipality and a step towards reconciliation.

“The global pandemic demonstrated that reliable internet access is a necessity in the modern age,” he said in a statement.

“Affordable rural high-speed has been something our community has been working towards for years,” said Ron Quintal, president of the Fort McKay Métis, in a statement. “There is no question that affordable high-speed is a bridge to the future for everyone. But its effects for students, business and people with family in other places will be transformative.”

The project was awarded to Telus following a municipal request for proposals issued last year and officially announced Wednesday. Councillor Jane Stroud and the Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee (CRDAC) confirmed the project to the Today earlier this month.

“It really showed up in COVID and there has been a big push forward [for internet access],” she said in a July 8 interview. “I think people will be very happy to see this moving forward.”

The federal government has a national goal of download speeds that are at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 10 Mbps. The CRTC reports that only 45.6 per cent of rural Canada has access to those speeds.

The announcement promised the Advanced Telus PureFibre network will connect residents and businesses directly to gigabit speeds. The project also promises better cellular coverage.

“The ongoing expansion of our broadband networks, ubiquitously deployed, are bridging time and distance, allowing residents to live and work in any community without compromising productivity or economic opportunity,” said Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus, in a statement.

“Our investments are enabling more Albertans with world-best connectivity to work, learn, socialize, access entertainment and transact safely and effectively from their homes.”

smclean@postmedia.com

Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting