Pilot project bringing high-speed internet to Clearwater County

By Kasandra Hornsby
January 10, 2019 - 9:14am Updated: January 10, 2019 - 2:20pm

A pilot project led by a not-for-profit foundation is providing a fibre optic network that is now up and running in the Rocky area.

Several businesses are now accessing the Gateway project done by the Clearwater Broadband Foundation. The main goal of the pilot project is to serve as incentive for Clearwater County how it can bring high-speed internet access to residents and businesses.

Businesses have privately funded the foundation to help with the project. There is also a contract with Missing Link Internet, who is a service provider and manages the access for the network.

Officials say Missing Link was chosen due to their broader and local knowledge.

Laurie Bowers, a member of the board for the Clearwater Broadband Foundation, says community support has been overwhelming and they are unsure of what Clearwater County’s plan for a fibre optic network is.

“We want to do everything we can to support growth and development of the county,” Bowers says.

The Clearwater Broadband Foundation describes itself as a grassroots coalition of community members that has been studying the alternatives for community-owned high-speed internet infrastructure can be made available to “virtually everyone” in the Clearwater County area.

Representatives with Rimbey-based Missing Link Internet presented to county council urging them to finally move forward with a county-wide fibre optic network.

They told council that their indecision to move forward is having a negative impact on their company due to other companies proceeding with building.

Andrew Van Dirstein with Missing Link says bringing high-speed internet to the county will lead to economic prosperity and that there’s a high demand for better internet services.

Meantime, the Alberta Party is calling on the provincial government to announce when it finally plans on introducing its rural high-speed internet plan, including cost estimates and installation timelines.

Karen McPherson, the party’s Economic Development and Trade Critic, says various plans have failed over the past 20 years and the time is now find one that works.

“Reliable internet isn’t a luxury – it’s an economic necessity, no matter where in Alberta you live, and rural Albertans shouldn’t be discriminated against because they don’t choose to live in a big city,” McPherson said.

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