Alberta invests $390M in high-speed internet for rural, remote and Indigenous communities

Click to play video: 'Alberta economist breaks down Alberta budget'
Alberta economist breaks down Alberta budget
Economist Trevor Tombre from the University of Calgary joins Joel Senick to discuss the 2022 Alberta Budget and the province’s fiscal state going forward. – Feb 24, 2022

The Alberta government announced a $390-million investment in rural broadband as part of a strategy to improve internet speeds for rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

The province announced Wednesday that the funding will come over four years, aiming to connect every home and business to high-speed internet by the end of the 2026-27 fiscal year. This includes the province’s previous $150-million investment announced last July along with a federal commitment to match $150 million. The Alberta government said it is working to secure a matching agreement for an additional $240 million.

The province said last year the total cost of expanding broadband internet to underserved areas in Alberta is estimated at $1 billion.

Kenney said the investment will help Alberta lead the country in economic growth, recovery and job creation, especially in the digital technology and innovation sectors. Alberta’s Broadband Strategy is expected to generate up to 1,500 jobs during infrastructure deployment, according to a news release.

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“We need to ensure that every Albertan, regardless of where they live, has the chance to participate in that future digital economy,” Kenney said in Innisfail on Wednesday.

The investment will also provide better services to rural, remote and Indigenous communities, Kenny said. According to the province, approximately 489,000 Albertans lack access to high-speed internet.

Click to play video: 'Alberta commits $150M to boost rural high-speed internet, aims to partner with private industry and feds'
Alberta commits $150M to boost rural high-speed internet, aims to partner with private industry and feds

Around 80 per cent of Indigenous communities and 67 per cent of rural and remote communities do not have access to reliable, high-speed internet. Alberta’s Metis Settlements do not have access to target speeds set by the CRTC.

“It is imperative that we bridge this digital divide. Right now, too many households, businesses and public institutions do not have access to adequate high-speed internet,” Kenney said.

The government said it is expected to make economic gains around three years after achieving universal broadband coverage. These include:

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  • annual GDP will rise between $500 million and $1.7 billion
  • the agricultural sector’s GDP will grow up to five per cent, resulting from adoption of AgTech
  • up to 2,000 long-term service industry jobs may be created in rural communities
  • up to 40,000 Albertans without access to a primary health-care provider may have improved access to telehealth, and the cost to deliver those services will be reduced
  • more than 120,000 students will have improved access to remote education
Click to play video: 'Few high-speed internet options frustrating for people in rural Alberta'
Few high-speed internet options frustrating for people in rural Alberta

The NDP criticized Kenney’s plan, saying there are few details on how universal broadband access would be achieved.

NDP Service Alberta critic Jon Carson said the province can’t rely on the federal government to solve the issue. Many Albertans in rural and remote areas still do not have access to the high speeds the government promised, said Carson.

“Achieving universal access to high-speed affordable internet is critical to Alberta’s rural economy,” said Heather Sweet, the NDP critic for agriculture and rural economic development.

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“Due to a lack of connectivity, we are missing out on economic opportunities and losing our competitive advantage as the world moves forward.”

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