NDP leader Rachel Notley told rural leaders in Edmonton the party’s ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ will ensure access to affordable reliable high-speed internet to rural Albertans by 2027.

Speaking at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta convention last week, Notley said if her party is elected in 2023, the $520 million plan will deliver reliable high-speed internet across the province.

The initiative would meet the 50/10 speed standard set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The initiative would be delivered within four years, Notley said.

“Access to high-speed internet is critical for building strong, sustainable rural communities,” said Notley.

The report from the NDP says that the leadership in the province has lacked co-ordination and left municipalities to “hire consultants while attempting to nudge and cajole internet service providers’ (ISP) into introducing or improving local service.”

In the South Peace, development has been ongoing to provide high-speed internet to residents, and internet speed varies.

The County of Grande Prairie shows 12 internet service providers (ISP) on its website, who offer various services, including satellite and fibre optics.

The Village of Hythe awarded GPNetworks a $700,000 contract in 2020 for fibre optic internet, with about 30 per cent of funding coming from federal grants, as previously reported in Town & Country News.

Meanwhile, Wembley has become connected with fibre optic network providers without putting any of its own finances forward, Noreen Zhang, Wembley CAO, told the News.

Fibre optics providers such as GPNetworks and Canadian Fibre Optics (CFOC) have been working throughout the South Peace to expand their service base.

Sexsmith’s economic development committee is working toward improved internet service, Rachel Wueschner, the town’s chief administration officer (CAO), told the News in September.

The NDP’s plan would create a new agency that would become empowered through legislative authority to ensure 100 per cent coverage in the province and determine where gaps in coverage in the province.

The plan also includes an affordability credit for Albertans whose only option may be satellite internet service to ensure rates charged are comparable to urban centres.

The fundamental importance of reliable high-speed internet in rural areas has been illustrated as schools and businesses moved to online meetings during the pandemic.