By Anna Smith
One of the newest approaches to bridging the digital divide, parts of the County of Forty Mile will be taking part in a pilot for satellite internet technology to some of the most remote and underserved communities.
Forty Mile, alongside County of Warner No. 5 and Cardston County, will have residents in select areas apply to be a part of a limited time pilot exploring the use of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite to improve connectivity.
This trial will be primarily targeting the southern parts of the County at this time, said Reeve Stacey Barrows, to keep the trial small and target some of the worst dead spots for residents.
Currently the only high-speed low-earth-orbit operating in Alberta is Starlink by SpaceX. In the future, other providers such as Telesat’s Lightspeed and Amazon’s Kuiper may offer services in Alberta and may qualify for a future rebate program.
Initial discussions commenced in late September, addressing concerns about potential interference with existing broadband strategies and applications, said Barrows. It was clarified to the County that the pilot project’s focus was on locating underserved households beyond the scope of current federal and provincial programs, reaching the farthest corners of rural communities.
Barrows added that this project was made possible in part via advocating for funding and research done in collaboration with the Canadian Internet Registration Agency (CIRA) and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), who conducted a comprehensive two-year internet speed testing project.
“We are thrilled for our fellow residents in the southern reaches of the County of Forty Mile to have the chance to experience high-speed internet, opening up new possibilities in their farming and ranching endeavours,” said Barrows in the Alberta press release. “This advancement ensures that even in our rural landscape, where connectivity has been a challenge, our agricultural community can harness the benefits of technology for greater efficiency and innovation. This is not just about connectivity, it’s about cultivating a technology-enabled agricultural landscape for generations to come.”
This project is limited to households and businesses in specified areas of the County that might not otherwise have access to land-based internet infrastructure.
Eligible entities within these designated areas can apply for a rebate under the program, receiving up to $1000 for new satellite receiver hardware, facilitating reliable, high-speed internet access, explained Barrows.
“The pilot project aims to provide valuable feedback, shaping future programs designed to connect the most remote areas in rural communities,” said Barrows. “This initiative underscores a commitment to bridging the digital divide and ensuring that even the hardest-to-reach areas can benefit from reliable internet connectivity.”