Valleyview Gets Highspeed
Northern Lights Fiber announced today that they are bringing fiber optic internet to town this summer. Northern Lights Fiber, an offshoot of Canadian Fiber Optics, is an Albertan company that specializes in building fiber optic internet networks in rural areas. Municipalities like Valleyview are often underserved by the big national telecommunication companies despite the need. Northern Lights Fiber is local and has been working in our region with recent projects in Grande Cache and Wembley. They're offering urban speeds at competitive prices and, perhaps most importantly, they are building Valleyview's network without taxpayer money.
Closing the digital divide
The internet has become a critical component in our daily lives. The ability to reliably connect to internet is a necessity like any other utility but unlike other services the infrastructure has fallen woefully behind. This is a problem across Canada. Despite federal government efforts the problem isn't being solved. 50 megabytes per second (mbps) download speed is a commonly referenced threshold for "broadband" internet. As I type this I have 10mbps which is shockingly typical in our town and others. The need for broadband is so wonderfully highlighted in this New York Times article, it's about Iowa but it could be Alberta, Saskatchewan or any number of municipalities. Rural communities share the same story. The new fiber optic service will provide a base speed that is ten times my current speed with an upper limit 100 times faster and for prices that are comparable to what residents pay now. This will change a great deal in our daily lives and boost our local economy.
What This Means For You
Residents and businesses will no longer need to ration the internet, multiple family members will be able to use video chats, do online classes and stream shows simultaneously. Businesses will be able to have more connected devices and adopt modern services. Homes can get more smart technologies. Teens (or adults) can play video games without outrageous lag and can stream to services like Twitch if they so choose. Businesses can install security cameras with high-quality live streaming instead of choppy pixelated video that lets thieves get away with impunity because their faces are so blurry they don't even need to wear a mask (that's happened here). Most simply, websites will load like they're supposed to. The speeds that are coming are game changing. Rural won't feel so rural, and residents can enjoy services with the same confidence as urban settings. For the first time in a long time the next problem you might face is that your hardware (computer or modem) might be what slows you down instead of the internet. What a lovely problem to have.
Valleyview Sets An Example
Better internet with modern speeds has been a goal of the Chamber and Town for years. It is part of our Economic Development Strategy and we are excited to check it off the list. It took teamwork, patience and a thick skin to get here. Time after time council had been presented to by the big telecommunications companies but each time they left with the same message roughly, "we're investing millions/billions in our network. Alberta is important. Rural communities matter to us. You are our valued customer but you're not important enough or valued enough to be on our list. We'll get to you someday." Someday is too far away for communities like ours. Fast internet is key to our economic viability and unlocking rural potential. Thankfully Valleyview's Council and Administration didn't throw in the towel and found another company which had a forward thinking approach. The Chamber was cautiously optimistic when Canadian Fiber Optics presented and didn't sing the same song. They believe in their business model and are offering what small communities need; a viable, replicable, privately-funded solution. They are building networks based on efficient business and a focus on profitability. So when the Chamber was asked to gather signatures from businesses we did. In a matter of a few days we gathered signatures and letters of support from well over 10% of businesses in town, including non-members, proving there was a justification to move forward with investment.
Since it is not taxpayer funded this model can be replicated in other rural communities. Valleyview gets to be a leader and set an example for what is possible in the rest of rural Canada. Our success is their success. That's exciting.