Alberta High Speed Internet
Daryl Marler, the Alberta Party Shadow Minister for Economic Diversification, speaks on the importance of reliable high-speed internet access to all Albertans. This is a topic that the Alberta Party and our past caucus members have long championed. Learn more in our previous Shadow Budget and Rebuilding document.
Published in the Sherwood Park News on November 25, 2020.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown Albertans anything, it is the necessity of reliable high-speed internet for both economic prosperity and mental well-being. Unfortunately, not all Albertans have access to high-speed internet.
This is often framed as a rural problem, but Albertans everywhere have issues connecting to the fastest offerings if infrastructure has not been yet put in place. Even towns and hamlets minutes away from major urban centres suffer from slow and unreliable internet access. During one policy discussion the Alberta Party held, a member from Wabamun, a mere 45-minute drive from Edmonton, had trouble connecting because of poor internet service. Premier Kenney’s recent photo-op with Shaw Communications helps but it is not enough. Our economic future depends on province-wide access to internet worthy of the 21st century.
And Alberta has the ability to not only lead the country in the 21st century version of the railroad, but the world. Despite the recent economic hard times, we are still a relatively wealthy province, and providing high-speed internet to all of our citizens would make us a beacon to the world and give us the ability to attract the world’s most talented people. Towns like Hanna have attracted graphic designers from Toronto who can work remotely, and Drumheller has become home to a bitcoin mine. Opportunities like this would be available to all if we can increase high-speed access to the entire province.
Reliable high-speed internet access enables commerce of physical goods, too. A Calgary man has started a website meant to be an Amazon for locally made products, Shopify allows anyone to start an online store, and one need only browse Etsy to see how many local, small-scale manufacturers are operating in our province. These small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and, if Alberta is to recover, these businesses need to be able to reliably access the customers of the world. If we are to diversify our economy, we need many businesses in many industries in many communities.
The Alberta Party does not pretend to have all the solutions, but we know that questions need to be asked because the current policy of providing grants or loans is not rolling out access fast enough. Luckily, Alberta has models that can be adopted province-wide. At the turn of the last century, we built canals by developing local cooperatives, and the gas industry still operates in many small communities using this model. In Olds, community-owned not-for-profit O-Net provides 1GB internet - among the fastest commercially available worldwide - to all residents for $57 a month. Perhaps it is time for high-speed internet to become a utility. These are options that we must assess if Alberta is to remain an economic powerhouse.
Without goals, achievements will always be limited. The Alberta Party will only be happy when every Albertan has access to world-class high-speed internet. Our economic future depends on it.