County Hosts Broadband Open Houses

Residents are thrilled with faster internet.

Residents of Sturgeon County will have three opportunities this month to learn more about a $7.55 million project to bring high-speed internet to the Villeneuve, Calahoo and Rivière Qui Barre areas.

County residents and business owners will be at Villeneuve Hall on May 11 for the first of three Sturgeon County Broadband Fiber Open Houses.

In November, Sturgeon County Council signed an agreement with Canadian Fiber Optics to build a $7.3 million fiber optic network in the southwest of the county. Council increased the project to $7.55 million on March 22 to cover a larger area.

The investment was prompted by years of complaints from residents about poor internet access – a 2020 study found the county had the lowest advertised maximum internet speeds in the Edmonton area.

This is the first phase of a multi-year project to bring fiber-based broadband access to the entire county, said Jesse Sopko, general manager of county business services.

Sopko said crews will install fiber optic lines in the Villeneuve, Calahoo and Rivière Qui Barre areas as well as the Heritage and Pro North industrial parks starting this summer. These lines will allow customers to sign up for faster internet through the provider of their choice. (While it was initially thought residents would have to register with a specific provider, Sopko said that requirement was dropped during discussions with Canadian Fiber Optics.)

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

“We can’t bring fiber to absolutely every home in the region,” he said, but homes farther from the lines can pay to extend it to them.

*dial noise*

Meadowview Drive resident Alice Kshyk said she is excited about the prospect of broadband internet coming to her area, as her current wireless service is intermittent at best. She recalled how her daughter, a photographer, struggled to upload her high-res photos at home.

“At one point he said his download would be complete in 362 days! That’s a bit much!” she laughs.

Laura Doroshenko of Cunningham Transport said her company relies on internet access to provide real-time bus tracking to parents through the BusPlanner app. Although she’s only a few minutes from St. Albert, their bus station’s wireless service is so poor that she has to call tech support most mornings to get it working. The Telus Smart Hub she has in reserve is also unreliable.

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

West Country Hearth residents use the internet extensively for video calling, health care and entertainment, council chair Colleen Soetaert said. But online access in the area is “shaky” at best – the wind can block her access to the house, and her children will often travel to St. Albert to study because wireless access is better there.

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

Soetaert said residents of the Villeneuve area are thrilled to have more reliable internet service in their area.

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

The high-speed fiber network open days take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on 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.

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