SaskTel high-speed internet reaches Rosthern, offers hope for rural Sask. connectivity

SaskTel is slowly firing up its fastest internet service in Rosthern, as part of a pilot project that aims to reach more customers in rural Saskatchewan.

In an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, SaskTel spokesperson Greg Jacobs said that one section of the town can now access Infinet, SaskTel's high-speed fibre optic network.

"That's by far the fastest in western Canada," Jacobs said.

The entire town, located between Prince Albert and Saskatoon, will be switched over to the network by fall.

"It's going to make our community even more attractive than it already is for its existing residents and people who might be considering relocating to our town," said Rosthern Mayor Dennis Helmuth.

"It's just nothing but good news for our town and we hope that it can be a good experience for us and for SaskTel, and hopefully for other communities down the road."

Rosthern's location, close to two major centres, makes it an ideal spot for a pilot project because resources can be shared with the cities.

Plus, Jacobs said, the town has older infrastructure with above-ground power lines, making it a lot simpler for SaskTel work crews to run cables.

Is there a business case?

Right now, Jacobs said, SaskTel is waiting to see what happens before talking about future rural expansion.

"We are still very early in the pilot project with Rosthern," he said.

"In other rural communities where there is more boring and trenching that we have to do, that really slows down the project, especially considering the amount of cold winter we get here."

Another factor, according to Jacobs, is the province's sparse population. In some communities, he said, it may not make economic sense for SaskTel to offer its high-speed Infinet service.