January Bearspaw Beat submission
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season.
In response to a presentation by Service Alberta at the recent Rural Municipalities of Alberta Conference and in conjunction with the CRTC and Federal Government’s initiatives to improve internet servicing to rural communities, Councillor Kevin Hanson and I brought forward a motion to direct Administration to actively seek solutions to the provision of internet servicing in Rocky View. We read our motion to Council on December 11th. It will be debated at the January 8th Council Meeting.
I have heard from many of you about the poor internet service we receive in Bearspaw. Despite the fact that many residents live within 100s of metres of the city, where internet servicing easily reaches 125 Mbps for downloads, many County residents still suffer with internet servicing of 5 Mbps or less. This is in part due to a disconnect between the CRTC, internet service providers and an overall lack of County policy around internet servicing.
The federal government has declared internet servicing an essential service with a mandate to ensure that 90% of rural residents receive a minimum of 50 Mbps for downloads by 2021. The CRTC hopes to achieve this in part through its $750-million ‘Broadband Fund’, which applicants can start applying for this year. In addition, the federal government has pledged $500-million through its ‘Connect to Innovate’ program.
The goals of our motion are to ensure that all available potential funding streams are explored; that we eliminate all gaps for last-mile connectivity; and, that broadband connectivity is given the same vital consideration as electricity and potable water in our Area Structure Plans.
We have also identified challenges with existing federal policy. Due to a flawed CRTC analysis and boundary design and because of our proximity to the city, some Rocky View residents have been designated as non-rural. This causes conflicts with service providers. We want to make sure issues like this are corrected so that County residents don’t fall through the cracks and miss out on any potential opportunities these initiatives may provide.
Closing the connectivity gap not only allows for County residents to remain competitive in our regional economy, but in the global economy. In addition to servicing residents, this motion seeks to enhance Council’s strategic goal of strengthening the County’s financial health. Establishing capable broadband connectivity is required to support a competitive environment for attracting new high-value business and a healthy business-related tax assessment base. Let’s hope the remainder of Council sees the value in our motion.