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Thursday , 15 April 2021

M.D. exploring federal grant to improve internet access

The M.D. of Bonnyville is looking for ways to improve high-speed internet in the rural areas.

At a committee meeting earlier this month, M.D. council moved to seek out proposals from Internet Service Providers in order to apply to the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund. 

Reeve Greg Sawchuk said they’re hoping the program could incentivize companies to install fibre in other M.D. hamlets.

“This issue has been around for a long time. And and we have had some work done in the area. So there was actually fibre that was installed in Fort Kent and Cherry Grove and that was under a previous program. In this case, what we’re looking at is just trying to get the word out there to these internet companies,” said Sawchuk on The Morning After.

“There has been some good work done by the Northeast [Alberta] Hub in regards to what speeds we have out here. And that’s kind of what we’re looking at right now is getting a better gauge on where it’s needed and where those real weak spots are.”

The $1.75 billion federal broadband fund is designed to fund broadband infrastructure projects that will bring high-speed internet to rural and remote communities.

The program sets a benchmark of 50/10 megabits per second as the goal for internet speeds as announced in early November 2020.

Other communities in the Lakeland have been looking to tackle the digital divide problem in rural Alberta.

Lac La Biche County partnered with Telus earlier this year to bring a fibre-optic network and building a cell tower in Noral.

The Town of Vermilion has also taken steps to become an internet service provider as part of a broadband pilot project.

“We’ve heard from the federal government that they’re supposedly could be extra funding to get this moving forward, we’ll see if that happens,” said Sawchuk.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.