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Province aims to expand rural internet access

Alberta is moving forward with its goal to have 100 per cent broadband connectivity by 2026-27.

Alberta is moving forward with its goal to have 100 per cent broadband connectivity by 2026-27.

The Alberta Broadband Fund (ABF) will expand access to financial support for rural broadband and will complement the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF).

The ABF is part of Alberta’s Broadband Strategy, a $390-million commitment over four years to improve access to high-speed internet in rural, remote and Indigenous communities. Alberta’s $390 million commitment will also be matched by the federal government.

“I have heard from many community leaders who are excited by Alberta’s $390-million commitment to rural broadband and the matching $390 million from the federal government. But I know that many communities were unable to apply to the Universal Broadband Fund in time,” said Nate Glubish, Minister of Service Alberta.

“That is why I am launching the Alberta Broadband Fund to ensure that no community is left behind. The ABF will help connect even more Albertans, families and businesses to reliable, high-speed internet.”

The province is allocating $36 million to the ABF, which will begin accepting applications from communities and service providers later this fall.

“Developing high-speed, reliable and affordable rural internet requires public investment,” said Paul McLauchlin president of Rural Municipalities of Alberta.

“RMA is grateful for the Alberta Broadband Fund and we are excited to see the impact this will have on municipalities where the business case may not exist to rely on the private sector alone for rural internet development. Made in Alberta works.”

According to a Government of Alberta release, close to 489,000 Albertans living in 201,000 households lack access to federal target speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) downloads and 10 Mbps uploads.

Meanwhile, about 80 per cent of Indigenous communities and 67 per cent of rural and remote communities do not have access to reliable, high-speed internet. None of the eight Metis Settlements located in Alberta can access federal target speeds.

“This announcement is good news for several Alberta communities that, despite having difficulties with internet connectivity, felt worried about being left out of the UBF,”noted Cathy Heron, president of Alberta Municipalities.

“The Alberta Broadband Fund opens an additional path to full connectivity for those communities, which will help our province succeed in our increasingly digital world.”

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