June 29, 2018 8:06 pm
Updated: July 3, 2018 3:07 pm

Alberta government confirms new SuperNet contract with Bell Canada

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According to Service Alberta, rural communities in Alberta will continue to receive SuperNet services that began in 2016.

On Friday, the Alberta government announced that they would not be renewing their previous SuperNet contract with Axia NetMedia Corp and that they have confirmed a multi-year contract with Bell.

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On Tuesday, Bell announced that, in addition to signing a contract with the provincial government, they will also buy the Alberta operations of Axia.

Axia was an Alberta-based fibre communications company that had been installing fibre optic internet services in rural Alberta for the past several years. It was a publically-traded company until it was acquired by Partners Group and turned private in 2016.

“We look forward to welcoming the Axia team to Bell as we integrate our operations to deliver the highest levels of service to Alberta’s SuperNet users,” Dan McKeen, Bell’s vice chair for Western Canada, said in a statement.

According to an emailed statement, Partners Group is a global investment group that plans on divesting all of Axia’s Canadian operations to Bell Canada to ensure an easy transition for SuperNet broadband users.

In a news release, Alberta government said the Alberta SuperNet is not the internet, but actually a broadband network that connects to rural and urban communities. It was built to connect public institutions such as schools and hospitals to a broadband network.

On June 21, Axia’s founder Art Price released a statement expressing concern that not renewing their contract could potentially leave residents of rural Alberta without internet services for an unknown length of time.

However, the Alberta government said that services will be continued without interruption.

“We know that the internet is not a luxury — it’s an essential service for families and key to building a modern, diverse economy. This new SuperNet contract ensures that Albertans will continue to have access to internet services in their schools, hospitals, libraries and public services,” said Brian Malkinson, the minister of Service Alberta, in a news release.

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Requests from Global News for comment from Axia on Friday’s development were not returned.

Residents of Stavely, Alta., a community impacted by SuperNet, welcomed the contract change but still expressed concerns over rates and want to have the option to choose their internet provider.

“What we have now is only one internet provider and it’s down most of the time,” said Cindy Gretten.

“It’s all about choices. Albertans should have a choice of what services they want and what services they don’t and right now with the internet it seems like we have no choice.”

According to Gretten, the town of Stavely has fibre optic cables installed in the newer side of town, but the older half remains unfinished. She hopes that Bell will continue to finish the work Axia started, but has not heard from either Bell or the government about what the plans for the future may be as of Friday.

On Monday, a Bell Canada spokesperson said they wouldn’t comment on its plans for Axia because the deal hadn’t closed. The Axia acquisition is expected to be complete in the fall.

With the Bell announcement, it means that it will be adding 402 rural communities due to the new contract, in addition to the 27 urban SuperNet network centres that the company already owns and operates.

Service Alberta did not respond to Global News’ request for comment about the town of Stavely.

With files from the Canadian Press

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