Red Deer County is saying goodbye to internet service that’s “worse than many Third World countries,” says Mayor Jim Wood.
On Friday, the county signed a contract with Valo Networks to build and operate a fibre optic network for its communities to connect to. The Village of Delburne has already joined in.
“I’ve travelled the world a lot. When you see Third World countries have better cellphone coverage and internet than we have in Alberta, there’s a problem,” Wood said.
“Red Deer County residents have been asking for better internet service for quite some time, and this is extremely exciting, because through this plan, Red Deer County will have high speed internet — actually, really high speed internet that will be second to none.”
He said the pandemic has highlighted the importance of internet service, with students needing to connect to assignments and meetings going online, in addition to normal industry uses.
The federal government deems strong internet connection to be essential, but so far, there’s just been a lot of talk, said Wood.
“It became a reality that the only way we’re going to see high speed internet across Red Deer County is if the county was, in fact, to take part.”
Darren Young, IT manager with the county, said building the fibre optic network is needed for the future of rural communities and farms around the county that currently face huge internet costs compared to cities.
“There is internet in every rural community. It’s not about the availability. It’s about the right for our rural citizens to get equal service at equal cost.”
The network will cost an estimated $20 million.
Wood said without better service, rural Alberta has been held back.
“This is the time for government to put some money in, and I hope we’re an example to other levels of government for what’s truly necessary to happen in Alberta. I think we’ve got a great project started here and I think we’ll be the example of what can happen everywhere.”