Clearwater County has set aside $10 million for a broadband Internet project.
“A vast majority of Clearwater County residents and businesses are underserved, and rural areas of Clearwater County do not meet the basic CRTC standards for broadband connectivity,” said Vandermeer, who called Internet an essential service.
“Economic diversity, sustainability and innovation are essential to Clearwater County’s growth and we require Internet infrastructure necessary to achieve that success.”
Money for a broadband project was redirected from reserves.
It is part of the county $47.9-million operating and $39.6-million capital budgets approved late last month.
County acting chief administrative officer Rick Emmons said Internet access has long been an issue in the county. He lives about five km east of Rocky Mountain House and gets terrible Internet and phone service.
“It really depends on where you’re located. There are other areas where it’s a non-issue.”
The money could go towards installing the infrastructure necessary to give residents fast and reliable Internet service.
Council is now working on a policy framework, including an assessment of all of the logistics necessary and whether the county would own the infrastructure.
Emmons said council sees improving Internet access as critical for economic development.
The county is developing the Nordegg area and marketing consultants have told the municipality that improving Internet connections is critical to attract new residents and businesses.
For many people, their phone is their computer and improving that service is just as important.
The county wants to hear from its residents before it embarks on any major Internet project.
“Council is currently discussing public engagement and what that looks like, a business plan and what that looks like, a policy framework and what that looks like.
“All those answers are truly going to guide the process behind it,” he said.