The Internet has come a long way since the days when dial-up access was the norm, but for many rural Alberta communities, it doesn’t feel that way.
Rock Solid Nitrogen is located at Vermilion in eastern Alberta. The company relies on the Internet for just about everything, including truck tracking, equipment upgrades, staff training and, of course, administrative tasks.
The problem: an unreliable Internet connection.
“We lose our internet functionality, where we’re located, probably an average of four or five times a month,” said Chairman Randy Martin.
“Time costs money in our line of business.”
Martin said that when the system crashes, it can take hours before it’s up and running again. He said many customers want real-time data from the trucks pumping nitrogen, or a quick spin to get quotes.
“For them to get that back from the producer…they’re working and there are times when the system doesn’t work, we have to wait four, five or six days.”
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City of Vermilion CAO Kevin Lucas said slow internet has affected many businesses.
“We had offshore companies come to the city of Vermilion and consider establishing their business here, and we were unable to provide them with the Internet access that they needed,” Lucas said.
“Being able to deliver a service (1 Gbps) to your home at a very affordable price is exactly what this community was looking for.”
Vermilion does not meet federal or provincial government funding requirements because some parts of the city have high speeds. So the city turned to Alberta Broadband Networka start-up sponsored by At noon Y Digital Infrastructure Group.
“The speeds are non-existent,” said Ken Spaglingar, CEO of the Alberta Broadband Network. “Many of these communities are running out of copper-based service, potentially coax service, that can’t even come close to the services we provide and speed up.”
Spaglingar said that Vermilion is the first community they have partnered with. He said there isn’t much urgency from bigger companies like Telus and Shaw to invest in smaller hubs.
“The ability to put together a small agile team to deliver our services is much easier for us than a larger group to come in and navigate.”
Vermilion’s fiber optic cable network is already installed and in use.
“It’s a strong network that’s very similar in style to what you’d see in an urban center – downtown Edmonton, downtown Calgary.
“What we are doing is trying to bridge the digital divide between urban centers and rural communities.”
The project costs between $10-15 million to build and the city contributed $2.4 million.
“For the economy, that’s a game changer now, Vermillion has the Internet that big companies are looking for,” Lucas said.
High speed internet is needed in many rural areas
cyber is a research and education network that analyzes the use of digital technology. Policy adviser Imran Mohiuddin said most cities have access to 50 megabytes per second for download and 10 megabytes per second for upload speeds, which is the federal government’s metric for high-speed internet.
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“When you look at rural communities, this goes down to around 40 percent, and First Nations communities go down to less than 10 percent,” he said.
“That’s generally the policeman of what we call the digital divide in Canada.”
Mohiuddin said the way the federal government maps connectivity in Canada to meet access at its target speeds means that in cases like Vermilion, there will be pockets.
“There may be a sector that has high-speed Internet access, but a large part of the community does not, or the available speed may be enough to support residential broadband use, but not enough to support commercial or industrial use. . ”
He said it also creates this situation, where communities are not eligible for funding but, at the same time, the service providers that are in the area won’t build a better network because it’s too expensive.
It is not even exclusive to towns and rural communities. Some smaller cities in the province also face this problem.
The city of Brooks is home to nearly 15,000 people, but the speed of the Internet is not meeting the needs of the residents. The city is also not eligible to receive funding.
“Because (the government) could find speeds of 50 and 10 within the community, but most of our community can’t do that, I think about 70 percent of the community can’t do that,” Alan, CAO of the Brooks City. Martens said.
“Right now we have a financed partner and that is Community Network Partnersthey work through their parent company, Crown Capital (Partners Inc.). So basically our project is a little over $20 million — we’re collecting $5.8 million of that, they’re collecting over $15 million of that.”
Internet is being installed by zones and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2023.
“For communities to compete now, especially on a global scale, you need to have a good internet connection. It will allow our businesses to operate anywhere, they will be able to load them quickly,” Martens said.
“For trade it will be of great help, they will not have barriers on where and with whom they do business.”
Some Canadians are looking for reliable internet beyond our border
Some Canadians are also looking outside the country for their Internet needs.
star link it’s an option being explored across Canada, with more people signing up every day. It is a low orbit satellite internet service provided by Elon Musk’s companies, SpaceX.
SpaceX has more than 3,200 Starlink satellites in orbit, bringing high-speed broadband Internet to remote corners of the world.
All of the hardware (self-aligning platter, brackets and cables) is shipped directly from the US company to customers at a cost of around $800. As long as you have a clear view of the sky, most remote properties can access high speed internet. The service itself costs $140 a month.
The service caught the attention of some provincial governments: In May, Quebec said it would spend $50 million to bring Starlink to nearly 10,000 remote homes in the province by the end of September. The homes are located far from the province’s fiber optic cable network.
Then, in July, Nova Scotia offered about 3,700 rural households and businesses a one-time rebate of up to $1,000 to purchase satellite internet and said Starlink was the only company that could meet the minimum required download and upload speed targets set by Canadian Radio- Television and Telecommunications Commission.
Other providers were invited to participate in the rebate program once they met the minimum requirements of 50 megabytes per second for download and 10 megabytes per second for upload.
Amazon also plans to launch the first of its Internet satellites early next year from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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— With archives from The Canadian Press