In Clearwater County's Strategic Plan 2019-2022, Council has formally recognized the goal of providing Internet accessibility to the majority of County residents and businesses as a key priority.
As part of its efforts to bridge the digital divide in the County, Council has committed to building a high-speed broadband Internet network.
The Core Backbone Broadband Internet Plan 2020-2025 is a six-stage project that would use a combination of over 360 kilometres of fibre-optic cable and wireless towers to provide high-speed Internet connectivity throughout the County. Please see our Broadband Fact Sheet for more information about the Core Backbone Plan.
For more information, please see answers below to FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about the broadband project.
Will the County’s broadband network enable Internet Service Providers to improve and expand service?
The broadband network being implemented by the County is intended to expand core backbone infrastructure into rural and remote areas that are unserved and/or underserved. The County will provide broadband infrastructure within proximity to users, while Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have the opportunity to provide Internet connectivity directly to customers. Investments in broadband infrastructure from ISPs will only serve to enhance coverage and capacity in the region.
In October 2020, Clearwater County Council approved the Core Backbone Broadband Internet Plan 2020-2025, which included the prioritization of routes and timelines. The selection of the initial route to Ferrier Acres as the first phase was partially due to the potential awarding of a Connect to Innovate (CTI) grant by the federal government. In addition, the route also presented favourable conditions to test potential implementation, costing models and services on a small scale prior to additional phases.
The second phase from Rocky Mountain House to Olds is essential to provide a low-cost, highly scalable wholesale Internet connection that will enable the County to act independently of major service providers and exert cost control. The route is a critical step in ensuring affordable connection rates for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile companies in the area.
Information has been presented to Council about the sequencing of phases including grant funding opportunities, public consultation initiatives, Internet connectivity costs and feedback from both small and large ISPs. Project sequencing is determined by Clearwater County Council and is subject to change.
All project decisions are subject to the discretion of Clearwater County Council.
Fibre-optic cable has been deployed from Rocky Mountain House through to Ferrier Drive, but has yet to be integrated with electronics for testing. Project updates will be posted on the County’s broadband webpage at www.clearwatercounty.ca/broadband as they become available.
The Ferrier Acres Pilot Project will go through a testing phase starting in mid-spring 2021 along with the initial wireless connectivity in late spring 2021. Timelines are subject to change due to logistical challenges presented by COVID-19 restrictions, including the delivery and acquisition of materials and supplies.
Wireless service could initially be available by early summer 2021, with Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) testing in the Ferrier area to follow. Existing Internet Service Providers serving the area could leverage the County’s broadband infrastructure to increase or improve their service offering.
Is there a way to extend the Ferrier route or possibly the route to Caroline area so that residents in the Cow Lake are included?
The County is reviewing initial wireless coverage of the Cow Lake area through connections with the Ferrier project and/or the second phase from Rocky Mountain House to Olds. The Ferrier project’s wireless infrastructure could potentially provide coverage in the northern part of Cow Lake by summer of 2021 with additional coverage in place by fall of 2021.
This is currently being developed.
The County will provide information regarding the progress of the project and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) through the broadband webpage at www.clearwatercounty.ca/broadband.
Fibre-optic broadband infrastructure will not be become obsolete due to advances in satellite technology for several decades, if at all. Furthermore, the fibre-optic network has the potential to support Starlink’s system of low-orbiting satellites. Starlink has expressed interest in the County’s broadband project and discussions remain ongoing. While satellite-based service will be cost-prohibitive for many, the technology could provide Internet connectivity to residents in the most remote areas of the County’s 18,000 square kilometres of sprawling wilderness.
Why was O-Net (an Internet Service Provider owned and operated by the Town of Olds) selected as a project partner?
O-Net provides gateway service to key Internet connection points in Calgary and have a long track record with broadband infrastructure and critical operational support.
The County will engage ISPs by helping to facilitate necessary requirements to improve their service or expand into new networks. Collaboration with ISPs will be guided by the County’s Broadband Telecommunications Open Access Policy, which establishes the terms under which the County and ISPs will cooperate.
While the County cannot speak for the entirety of ISPs in the area, many ISPs have contacted the County expressing their support for the project and look forward to the opportunities of improved broadband infrastructure.
We are currently with a major Internet Service Provider (ISP). Will the broadband project improve connection speeds?
The County’s broadband network will enable major ISPs to improve their services and provide high-capacity connectivity at a cost that minimizes interconnection prices for the customer. It will also reduce the risk of service disruptions with the addition of fibre-optic routes to major Internet hubs.
Depending on geographic obstacles, proximity to broadband infrastructure and pricing options offered by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Internet connectivity will be delivered by ISPs through either fibre-optic cable, wireless towers or a combination of both.
The County will be meeting with existing ISPs in the coming months to explore options for improving and expanding service availability through the County’s broadband network. Information about participating ISPs will be made available at the County’s broadband webpage at www.clearwatercounty.ca/broadband.
Existing businesses are seeing an increasing need for access to high-speed Internet connectivity to provide products and services, secure access to markets and maintain competitiveness. Many businesses looking to establish themselves in the County consider Internet connectivity to be as important as electricity. Access to broadband increases the attractiveness of the County to businesses, developers and potential residents.
As the County develops the Historic Main Street in Nordegg and seeks to attract businesses to the hamlet, broadband will play an essential role. Broadband is a requirement for hotels, tour operators, other service providers, residents and visitors. Council has approved a connection to Nordegg as part of the Core Backbone Broadband Internet Plan 2020-2025.