On December 8, 2020, Sturgeon County Council approved a new broadband strategy to improve internet access throughout the County. The project will address issues identified during the 2020 needs assessment. In that assessment, 97.7% of residents and businesses said that internet access was either very important or that they couldn’t live without it. The same study showed that most Sturgeon County residents and business are currently dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the reliability, speed, and value of their current internet service.
For more information, review the Resident Survey Results and Business Survey Results.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for reliable broadband connectivity has been highlighted as residents require reliable broadband access in order to work, learn, access health care services, conduct business, and communicate with friends and family while respecting physical distancing directives.
Sturgeon County’s Broadband Strategy will be implemented in phases, starting with a pilot project in the Villeneuve area.
Villeneuve Pilot Project
The strategy will start with a pilot project in the Villeneuve area, which was selected for the following reasons:
- An analysis of speed test data and population density demonstrate that an investment in this area would provide significantly increase service to a large number of residents.
- As the Villeneuve Airport and Pro North Industrial Park are important economic drivers for Sturgeon County, broadband investment in this area will support the County’s economic development priorities.
- The proximity of the proposed pilot area to potential partners, including Alexander First Nation.
- Servicing institutions such as public facilities and community halls make a direct community impact as well as improves the ability to capitalize on future grant funding.
As part of Budget 2021, Council dedicated up to $7.3 million in long-term debt for improving broadband connectivity in Sturgeon County. This is a high-level estimate of bringing reliable, scalable, and affordable service to each residence and business in the pilot project area. Although this funding has been approved, Sturgeon County is also looking to secure a private partner and explore potential grant funding to reduce the County’s financial contribution.
In addition to the application for funding through the Government of Canada’s Universal Broadband Fund (UBF), Sturgeon County will be pursuing other grant and partnership opportunities to offset costs of the proposed pilot project.
While the investment in broadband is significant, there are studies demonstrating the return on investment. A recent Broadband Situation Analysis Report completed by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board (EMRB) identified reliable broadband as a driver for global economic competitiveness, enabling the attraction and retention of businesses and skilled workers, which has a direct impact on the Region’s contribution to the GDP. According to this report, the potential impact of a wider adoption of digital technologies by Canadian industry could boost Alberta’s GDP by $44.3 billion dollars over the next ten years.
Locally, with higher internet speeds, local business owners stated that they would be able to operate more efficiently (88%), grow their business (44%), and provide improved customer service (56%).
Support for County Involvement and Investment
As part of the needs assessment, Sturgeon County residents and businesses were asked about the level of involvement the municipality should take in ensuring that Sturgeon County’s future internet speed requirements can be met at a reasonable cost.
- 53% of respondents supported the County partnering with the private sector and investing as required.
- 33% of respondents indicated the County should support the private sector including consideration of a financial investment.
- 11% indicated the County should support the private sector without financial investment.
- Only 3% indicated the County should not be involved at all.
Broadband Speed Test
The CIRA Internet Performance Test is a quick and easy test of your Internet connection speed. Taking the test helps us understand the service level that residents and businesses are receiving across Sturgeon County. Completing a speed test may assist Sturgeon County in accessing grants to improve internet access throughout the County.
The speed test is administered by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). As each user performs a test, their data is anonymously collected and aggregated into a large dataset that spans Canada. Researchers will be able to understand the capabilities of Canada’s Internet infrastructure. Sturgeon residents will be able to compare their connection speeds with other people in their area, province, or across the country.
Take a speed test