Internet & Future Connectivity: Bridging the Digital Divide

Access to high-speed broadband is essential as part of the basic infrastructure that supports everything we do. Similar to roads, bridges, and electricity, it is core infrastructure in the 21st century that will provide the foundation for economic diversification, world-class education, and strong public health services across the province.

We need a competent provincial government that is willing to listen to and partner with local communities, aggressively secure federal funds, and take meaningful action now. To provide reliable and cost-effective broadband speeds across Alberta, we also need solutions that take factors like sparse population, tricky geography, existing networks, different market players, and multiple technologies into account.

As a province, we are challenged by a lack of coordination. Absent provincial leadership, communities have been left on their own to hire consultants, while attempting to nudge and cajole ISPs to introduce or improve local service. The lack of coordination results in missed opportunities, with better and cheaper solutions being left on the table. Most Alberta municipalities are not internet service providers, nor do they have the resources or expertise to bring broadband access to their communities in a way that is financially accessible. Yet, these municipalities are acting because the province is not, and it is their only option.

Solving the problem of connecting all Albertans will require provincial leadership. Our strategy is designed to overcome the challenges we know exist, and get the job done.

"Access to high-speed internet is critical for building strong, sustainable rural communities. The digital divide between urban and rural is hurting our province. It hurts rural families who want their kids to have a better future. It hurts rural entrepreneurs who want to expand their businesses. We cannot sustain two Albertas. We cannot allow the digital divide to grow into a digital canyon." - Rachel Notley

Our Proposals 

By achieving universal broadband access, Albertans can fully realize the benefits and take advantage
of the opportunity that it offers. Given the importance and the opportunity it presents, we must achieve universal access as quickly as possible and in a way that provides good value for Albertans.

  1. Declare Broadband Access Essential 
  2. Achieve Universal Broadband Access within One Mandate, No Later than 2027 
  3. Creation of Digital Innovation Alberta 
  4. Broadband Advisory Group 
  5. Regional Approach
  6. Building Broadband Faster in the Alberta Act 
  7. Digital Innovation Alberta Action Plan - Regional Approach 
  8. Digital Innovation Alberta Action Plan - Funding the Building Out of Broadband
  9. Satellite Solution Tax Credit
  10. Federal Advocacy - Use It or Lose It 
  11. We Are Technology Agnostic

Please read our full report for rationale of each proposal and background information on how we can close the digital gap by 2027

"This proposal focuses on how we can achieve universal broadband access in one electoral mandate, by 2027. While these ideas are the result of consultation with Albertans, we will continue to engage and look for opportunities for improvement to ensure that we put forward the most effective plan that works for Albertans" - Jon Carson, Service Alberta Critic

 

Leave a Comment

Den

Posted

Consider funding Regional co-op locations in rural areas. As I recall the GoA spent significant dollars in 2005 to provide broadband to communities large and small across Alberta. The extended area portion of the Supernet build created a large number of PoP's to connect schools, hospitals, GoA buildings across Alberta. At the Pop locations in small communities, Wireless ISP's were to be allowed to gain access to low cost back-hall services to major centers. In my view, the existing Pop's could play a key role in delivering broadband to rural Alberta.

Lori Curran, Co-Founder of Albertans for Safe Technology

Posted

In today's world, there is no doubt that Internet access is a necessity. Fibre-to-the-Premises technology for homes, schools, and all premises throughout Alberta is the superior solution. It uses 10 times less energy than wireless - making it much more climate friendly. Also, Independent science is clearly indicating that both human health and environmental biodiversity are at risk if we keep increasing the levels of wireless radiation. Fibre Optic Technology-to-the-Premises is a safer, faster, greener, more reliable, more cyber-secure, and even a more economical long-term solution. See the following links for more details on how this is working in BC and elsewhere: https://connected-communities.ca/

Elizabeth

Posted

We live in Edmonton, but do not have internet because the costs are unreal and as seniors we do not want additional monthly payments for something that we occasionally would use. There needs to be a more cost effective way for all Albertans whether they use the internet sparingly or majorally.

Darryl

Posted

After having only looked at your glossy pictures and this summary page, we don't need to be wasting even more time on Meta/Facebook, YouTube, Tik-Tok, spammers, scammers, trackers, and worse. Albertans require strong accountable Provincial, Federal, Municipal and International alliances, legislation, resources, and intentions to track these offenders back to their origins, take names and biodata, create permanent records, get reparations from the Countries and Corporations who turn a blind eye to such offenses. Until then low speed narrowband is sufficient, if not better. Proposals 3 and 4 likes like more lazy obstructive bureaucrats. Will read more tomorrow. Thanks for the opportunity.

Roger Barrett

Posted

The proposal (and most of the comments below reflect this), has us sleepwalking into an unexamined future of 5G blindly accepting the premise that faster is better. I would prefer to hear from the NDP that they'd be looking into the deeper implications of the proposal rather than throwing out a glossy, crowd-pleasing outline.

SPCG

Posted

Problem Statement: Good, however needs a finer point. The economics don't work in many cases due to the high bar/high cost of borrowing institutions for these types of projects or big 3 public companies needing to turn quick returns so satisfy share holders. Funding Idea: The answer could be a fund that ISP's can submit and bid on where they must show true invoiced costs of the build and an estimate on how much would be required to make the build viable. From there that difference would be the foundation of their funding request. CRTC declared broadband a "basic service" not an "essential service". Essential services are things like water, food, power, and emergency services, broadband is not that. Ontario being aggressive: Ontario has been at the broadband game for almost 20 years. Look up EORN, SWIFT, and the last 5 budgets which all included some form of funding. They've been making big strides in improving services for their communities, and through a combination of local, private, and provincial influence, they've be slowly solving the problem. 5 years is not aggressive, its actually realistic as they've had a decade of good progress to build off of. Other Provinces vs Alberta: Every single province and territory has a fund to address broadband services in some way. Alberta instead chose to build the supernet which was based on having market players leverage this asset and things would figure itself out. It was a great undertaking and extremely progressive at the time. Unfortunately there were no rules, guidelines, agreements, or legislation that implied it needed to be used at all by anyone other than the provider doing the maintenance. It does get used, but nowhere near what it could be. Build better faster act: There is confusion here with respect to what an act should have vs what is the role of the municipality. A municipal access agreement as created by FCM is a better approach, and I would agree that conduit is appropriate, however a one size fits all approach is not appropriate in Alberta. The issue with dig once is that not all municipalities are created equal. There are a number of challenges with dig once that limit its effectiveness such as asset lifecycles in the same trench, construction practices, asset management and maintenance programs, etc. A dig once means that you open up the surface one time in a defined period to do work and that's it, and then it stays like that until a period of time passes. The issue is, if the municipality does work "as needed" vs "every 5 years" how can anyone work with that? If I do as needed and repair 10 ft of road or pipe at a time, no one is going to splice in 10 ft of infrastructure, power, water, gas, and anything else in that right of way (not all in the same trench obviously). The plan needs to be focused on long term sustainable approaches not buzz words. Satellite Solution: This is not a fix, just pandering to peoples pocket books. The issue is not the monthly fees, its the fact that the services cost $1000-$1500 CAD just to get the equipment to begin with. The focus is on the wrong thing. If the NDP really wants to change the province on this issue, there needs to be significant changes to your approach. The problem statement isn't half bad, but the solutions are a bit abstract and don't speak to the root causes, just the stuff on the surface. Each of the solutions offered stops at 1 "why", so to get better results, get to 5 "why's", google it if you don't know what I'm stating here, there are lots of sessions online that will guide you through root cause analysis.

SPCG

Posted

I have a few suggestions to improve on this. First, recognition of the SuperNet when it has not been fully realized is a bit odd. SuperNet connects over 400 communities with highspeed fiber across Alberta, but because of how the agreement is structured, we lack the fundemental ability to properly leverage that asset. The Alberta Government should be exercising it's 1$ buy out option sooner than later and maximizing this investment through enabling key regional partnerships and improving the aged electronics currently supporting this system. This is an invaluable asset that keeps getting overlooked and ignored. Through this network alone, almost every educational institution would have exceptional services, but it would require a complete rework of those agreements, currently schools pay through the noes for the priviledge of access. StarLink, Kupier, Telesat, and others coming online will offer great stop gap solutions, but it only a component. These services struggle with a combination of scale and support as we've seen order dates continually being pushed out, lack of support when needed, and no direct installation services. Don't get me wrong, they are great solutions! We just need to use them appropriately and support local 3rd party vendors who can create the support networks SpaceX can't. Subsidies for this are not appropriate for citizens, but for educational institutions, libraries, and municipalities in remote locations, that would be recommended. You need an educational component to this. Rural internet fails because there are no local resources to support the service. The further away from a major center you go, the more expensive it is to maintain services. Failure to recognize this core fact will minimize the gains that could be realized. There needs to be support and programs that support training and keeping these skilled people local to continue to support their communities. Regional collaboration needs to be funded or heavily incentivized. Municipal leaderships work at different speeds with different levels of risk tolerance, you need better engagement and programs in place to encourage people to keep pace with change. Grants exist already, they simply need to be enhanced and expanded on. (E.g. CARES) Broadband needs to be a UTILITY not labeled essential. It is already a basic service according to the Canadian Government, so I'm not sure what benefit that will offer. Moving this service under the utility commission will expand avaialble funding, create a governance group over the service, and allow municipalities greater flexibility in creating or supporting these services in the future. Municipalities have a better sense of the urgency and needs of the community than the provincial governments, so they should be enabled through many avenues to support the development of these services. Spectrum needs to be set to Tier 5 with a use or lose approach to spectrum allocation. By further defining the spectrum tier, WISPs can have an opportunity to compete in their local markets without broad sweeping allocations of spectrum to providers who won't offer services to those communities. Digital Innovation Alberta and the Broadband Advisory Group should be the same body. Services and capabilities will be determine in both of these, it just seems redundant. Technology Agnostic is not appropriate - investments need direction, and without guideance on expected service levels and outcomes it becomes a game of minimizing investments to maximize profits - see our aging copper infrastructure that keeps getting incremental improvements - it would have been cheaper to run fiber in the first place. We need our leadership to better define better decision making around future proofing public dollars as much as possible. Please hire competent advisors familiar with the topic who are driven by public service and economic development, not pundents or assigned ISP resources. While these folks know their business, their own self interest continues to over run the public good. This and much more if you're interested.

Joni

Posted

Sounds wonderful

J Spencer Allen

Posted

HI, I am very concerned that you are using this issue as another political platform versus some real value to us, your constituents. Affordable to me is less than $50.00 for a basic smart phone per month with unlimited data. That is an average across the world. My phone is over $100.00, my data is not unlimited. My home is another $70.00 and my partner pays similar for the same residence. (our household $280.00 a month) I am excited that you are challenging the status quo in Canada/Alberta as my fixed income dollars are being eroded FAST!!!!

Anna

Posted

Too little and too late! We have to wait to 2027?..

Sherwood Botsford

Posted

Laudable, but difficult. A big chunk of the problem will be lack of competent technicians. Part of your action plan needs to be to get the technical schools on side for training up a bunch of technicians who can help meet the high demand. A secondary problem: If you *really* do it in 5 years, then after you have a bunch of trained people who are out of work. So that training has to be both fast (to meet the need) and general (for them to adapt to a new tech job later.) Right now my WiLAN connection costs $100 per month for a nominal 25 Mbit/download connection. In actual fact it's rare I can get 15. I had to erect a $6000 tower to get that. What may work better is to get *some* connection to everyone, then upgrade it. E.g. for lots of people the initial connection may be a satellite link. Later, the hardware is collected and replace with wireless lan. *** I have Supernet fiberoptic within a mile of my house. It's not practical for me to access that. That said, given supernet networks, how much of Alberta lives within 1 wireless tower radius of supernet? Barter: One of the ways to fund this might be to barter access in exchange for tower site. E.g. You give me whatever the fastest speed the system provides in exchange for a place to put the tower. In addition, instead of having a separate electrical service for the tower, it plugs into my house, and I get a monthly cheque for the power it uses. *** Another way to fund this would be with the help of the cell phone companies. Right now cell phone coverage in Alberta is spotty. There is about 20% of our drive to Edmonton that has no coverage -- not enough to maintain a phone conversation, which is a concern in winter. If Wilan towers are going up along Supernet anyway, adding cell coverage to these towers would be fairly cheap.

woodboot

Posted

Why not look into E. Musk's Skylink system by SpaceX? His constellation of many thousands of small satellites is designed to supply Internet service to sparsely populated parts of our planet. Areas like rural Alberta, where the high cost of installing glass cannot be supported by the limited number of users. The satellites are being launched as I write and you read. A beta version of Starlink may already be available in parts of Canada. For more have a look at --> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlink

Azim

Posted

Access to Internet as we know is controlled by few Telcos … they are priced out too expensive…CRTC has yet to look into this. We given too much power to these Telcos and seems they are in-touchable.

David Ridgeway

Posted

This would have been much easier if we still had AGT!

Rita Patterson

Posted

I think that this is a very positive step forward. A purposeful coordinated plan is essential to make this plan work.

Raksh Joshi

Posted

Access to high-speed internet proposal is very good

tammy Moreau

Posted

This is an innovative and much overdue proposal. Digital technology is no longer the wave of the future - the future is here now! Leaving significant portions of our society without broadband access will create a province that is stunted and backward - certainly not a province that will attract out of province economic growth.

Gordon Gilbertson

Posted

Fund schools and community facilities at the rate of starlink, If the land based providers can compete, great. If not starlink it is. This new service means the government does not need to get involved in helping providers build out their infrastructure.

Michael

Posted

It's time to consider new players such as https://www.starlink.com/ a straight subsidy for residents to pay for the upfront cost might be the fastest way to get fast internet in rural areas for reasonable prices. I understand there is subsidy for ROBELUS (the Rogers Bell Telus triopoly) to provide less economical services to rural areas. Satellite internet seems like an option worth considering.

Jorn Brauer

Posted

Great.

Natasha

Posted

2027? That long? With all of the work from home, school from home, get your health care from hone of now? Rural Alberta is becoming a third world county in the digital age

Ken Bainey

Posted

As one of the key players in Alberta Supernet initial roll out- Great ideas for foundation reference. Will provide my "go-forward" suggestions later.

Jason

Posted

I worked for a small WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) and the biggest hurdle was gaining/purchasing frequencies from Industry Canada. If the NDP can influence the marketplace for the purchase of these frequencies, the monopoly and internet suppression tactics will end.

Kenneth Bainey

Posted

Excellent - was one of the key players in the original sipernet roll out across Alberta !

Dave da

Posted

You plan is useless and telus and others can not reach all the people This is how you do it https://www.starlink.com/

Danielle Black

Posted

I moved to a remote northern community in 2020. I technically have internet, but it is so spotty during high frequency times that I cannot use it for streaming or zoom or FaceTime. And I have no other options. I have never felt so isolated, especially during a pandemic. Not being able to FaceTime my mom when I need to has been hard on my mental health, and being isolated in my home during a pandemic without being able to even watch TV or videos while living in Canada, a first world country, is ridiculous to me. I agree that high speed reliable internet should be as readily available to every Albertan as clean water and electricity.

jOHN Clark

Posted

Get rid of Bell Media, don't allow them anyplace near this. Look towards Huawei for our future. Their networks are equal to or superior to Bell's. BC has had Huawei in place before the last election that's why there is no Conservative Government in BC.

Patti Smith

Posted

I wish! Where we live (10 miles east of Ponoka) we have one Internet option - explornet, and the service is lousy. They have a monopoly and I’m not sure how that can be changed.

cam mcdonald

Posted

Good start