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County hosts broadband open houses

Residents are excited for faster Internet.
1105 broadband file
This is the first phase in a multi-year project to bring fibre-based broadband access to the entire county, explained Jesse Sopko, Sturgeon County's general manager of corporate services. FILE/Photo

Sturgeon County residents will have three chances this month to learn more about a $7.55-million project to bring high-speed Internet to the Villeneuve, Calahoo, and Rivière Qui Barre regions.

County residents and businessowners will be at Villeneuve Hall May 11 for the first of three open houses on the Sturgeon County Broadband Fibre Network.

In November, Sturgeon County council signed a deal with Canadian Fibre Optics to build a $7.3-million fibre optic network in the county’s southwest. Council upped the project to $7.55 million March 22 so it would cover more area.

The investment was prompted by years of complaints from residents about poor Internet access — one 2020 study found the county had the lowest maximum advertised Internet speeds in the Edmonton region.

This is the first phase in a multi-year project to bring fibre-based broadband access to the entire county, explained Jesse Sopko, the County’s general manager of corporate services.

Sopko said crews will run fibre optic lines to the Villeneuve, Calahoo, and Rivière Qui Barre regions as well as the Heritage and Pro North Industrial Parks starting this summer. Those lines will let customers sign up for faster Internet through the provider of their choice. (While it was initially thought that residents would have to sign up through a specific provider, Sopko said that requirement was dropped during talks with Canadian Fibre Optics.)

Sopko said guests at this month’s open houses can ask questions about the project and sign agreements to let contractors hook their homes to the lines.

“We can’t bring fibre to absolutely every home in the area,” he said, but homes further out from the lines can pay to have it extended to them.

*dial-up noise*

Meadowview Drive resident Alice Kshyk said she is excited by the prospect of broadband Internet coming to her region, as her current wireless service is intermittent at best. She recalled how her daughter, a photographer, used to struggle to upload her high-resolution photos at their home.

“At one point it said her upload would be complete in 362 days! That’s a little bit much!” she said, laughing.

Laura Doroshenko of Cunningham Transport said her company relies on Internet access to provide real-time bus-tracking to parents through the BusPlanner app. Despite being just a few minutes from St. Albert, the wireless service at their bus yard is so poor that she must call tech support almost every morning to get it to work. The Telus Smart Hub she has as a backup is also unreliable.

“This new fibre option will be a welcome service,” she said, and she hopes to have the line extended to the bus yard.

West Country Hearth residents make extensive use of the Internet for video calls, health care, and entertainment, said board chair Colleen Soetaert. But online access in the region is “precarious” at best — the wind can knock out her access at home, and her children will often head into St. Albert to study because the wireless access is better there.

“If the Internet is down, work stops,” she said.

Soetaert said Villeneuve-area residents are excited to have more reliable Internet service come to their region.

Sopko said crews hope to have all new fibre lines in the project area in place by the end of the year.

The broadband fibre network open houses run from 6 to 8 p.m. May 11 at Villeneuve Hall; May 16 at Calahoo Hall; and May 27 at the Rivière Qui Barre Arena. Visit www.sturgeoncounty.ca/GetConnected for details.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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