Upgraded broadband service inches closer

2019 construction targeted

Richard Froese
South Peace News

A plan to construct broadband Internet service for the Big Lakes County region is set to be ready in 2019.

At its regular meeting July 25, county council awarded a contract to develop broadband Internet service to Taylor Warwick and Magna Engineering Services, and contribute $466,157 as the county’s portion for the full cost of $521,630.

Construction to launch pilot projects for High Prairie and Joussard could come just in time for government funding next year when a provincial election is planned for May and federal election in October, the reeve says.

“They’re looking for shovel-reading projects to support rural communities,” says Reeve Ken Matthews.

“If you have a plan and project ready to go, you’ll get the grant money.”

He says more funding for rural broadband is planned by the two governments.

“I think it will be significant grant funding,” Matthews says.

While the infrastructure will initially serve High Prairie and Joussard, the contractor will design a project to cover the entire region, consultant Steve Eppley says.

The project could also be extended to neighbour Indigenous communities and municipalities such as Swan Hills, Slave Lake, the M.D. of Smoky River, M.D. of Lesser Slave River and the M.D. of Opportunity, he says.

Plans would be ready to start construction in September 2019, he says.

Funding from the partner municipalities was also supported.

“The recommendation coming from the broadband committee is that Big Lakes County pays half of the Town of High Prairie’s contribution,’ says a report from CAO Roy Brideau.

“This not only helps our urban neighbour, but helps gain economies of scale for the entire network, making the operations more cost effective in the long term.”

Big Lakes would pay half of the town’s portion of $110,948.

Faust Councillor Robert Nygaard questioned the county paying more.

However, the consultant says that is fair.

“Per capita, the town is contributing more funding than the county,” Eppley says.

“I talked to a lot of businesses in High Prairie and they said most of their business comes from the county and outside the town.”

The CAO stresses the value of the towns.

“We went into this project as a partnership,” Brideau says.

“We need High Prairie and hook-ups to make this feasible and to benefit financially from it.”

A total of five requests for proposals were received.

“The responses received were based on the full engineering and project management that would provide us with the expertise necessary to create a fully operational network within the Town of High Prairie and the hamlet of Joussard,” Brideau says.

“By issuing one contract for the full management, engineering and assisting us in establishing a governance model and technical standards, we are able to reduce our risk and utilize their expertise and experience to effectively guide us through the process from start to finish.”

The contractor will develop a business plan, an infrastructure master plan, active network design and the construction process.

 

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