WHEREAS the Government of Alberta launched the Alberta SuperNet build through an agreement with Bell Intrigna and Axia IP Services in July, 2001 and one of the tenets was the provision of accessible and competitively-priced services to rural Albertans; and
WHEREAS all Albertans require access to high speed internet for economic and community development, public safety; and
WHEREAS reliable and affordable connectivity to high speed internet should be considered an essential service; and
WHEREAS municipalities and private industry have limited access to the Alberta SuperNet due the current operating agreement; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta is part of the Alberta SuperNet and in the process of looking at the future operations of the Alberta SuperNet;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to establish a multi-stakeholder advisory committee to participate in a review of the existing agreement which expires on June 30, 2018 and make recommendations for the new agreement that would be effective July 1, 2018.
Many municipalities in Alberta have invested significant dollars in infrastructure to provide improved connectivity to the residents and businesses in their communities. High speed internet and improved mobility is essential for economic and community development, access to provincial services, public safety and is fast becoming an expectation for those considering moving to rural communities. The current operating agreement the Government of Alberta has with Axia was put in place with limited outside consultation and limits both the public and private sectors in providing reliable and affordable broadband coverage. Brazeau County and its municipal partners in the Alberta Rural Communications Alliance group have experienced extreme levels of frustration in attempting to work with Axia to facilitate better access to the broadband infrastructure to the benefit of their residents, businesses and the municipal organization.
The current operating agreement between Service Alberta and Axia is set to expire on June 30, 2018. Repeated discussions and meetings with Service Alberta has not provided confidence that the next agreement will provide better access to rural Alberta.
According to a 2015 submission to the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) by Cybera, a not-for-profit technical agency with a mandate to help Alberta advance its IT frontiers, the lack of equitable access to reliable high speed internet is creating an uneven playing field for Alberta’s rural communities and the individuals, families and businesses that wish to live and work in them.
“Canada’s rural communities face a serious challenge in maintaining their economic viability as residents migrate to urban centres to access better connectivity tools. Fast broadband is increasingly being considered a necessity by home buyers. Without careful consideration, the rural-urban divide will continue to grow. It is critical that rural and remote residents be given the same opportunities as urban Canadians with respect to the adoption of internet services.”
In the current struggling economy, it is even more vital that rural municipalities are able to provide the opportunity for new business ventures of all sizes, from smaller home-based operations to medium and larger-scale commercial and industrial, to set up and flourish in their communities. Without the ability to support the digital, mobile and online demands of today’s households and businesses, rural communities will begin to stagnate and decline as both existing and potential residents and economic opportunities choose to settle elsewhere.
It is our hope that the involvement of a multi-stakeholder advisory committee in the negotiation of the new SuperNet agreement can ensure that these disparities are addressed and access to the SuperNet can be gained for municipalities, many of which have shown their own commitment to facilitating better access for their communities through investment in infrastructure.
5-15S: Review of Alberta SuperNet Agreement with Axia SuperNet Ltd.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that Service Alberta not renew the Axia SuperNet Ltd. agreement until a complete examination of how the Alberta SuperNet can be managed in such a way as to promote a cost competitive, reliable, sustainable and Alberta-based solution for fibre optic internet services which meets the increasing demand for high speed internet service within the Province of Alberta with sufficient emphasis to rural connectivity.
DEVELOPMENTS: The Government of Alberta is currently in the process of developing an RFP for a new SuperNet operator when Axia’s contract expires in 2018. As part of this process, Service Alberta has engaged the AAMDC and other stakeholders to better understand the current weaknesses of the SuperNet in connecting public sector institutions and supporting the development of rural broadband connectivity.
Because Service Alberta has acknowledged flaws in the current SuperNet and challenges in how it is operated by Axia, and has expressed a commitment to improving SuperNet in the future, this resolution is assigned a status of Accepted in Principle, and will be reviewed when a new operating agreement is signed.
Service Alberta: Service Alberta (SA) has engaged, and continues to engage, with all key stakeholders affected by the current SuperNet operating contract that expires on June 30, 2018. The valued insight shared by the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) and its municipal membership was considered as part of the recommendations and options put forward for the future of SuperNet services.
SA will continue to support open communication with our many stakeholders; however, we are not able to action resolution 11-16F at this time because the Government of Alberta (GOA) was already reviewing SuperNet at the time of the AAMDC’s fall convention. The GOA also needs to take action on SuperNet early in 2017 in order to enable any potential transition and ensure service continuity for our stakeholders.
SA has committed to reaching out to both the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the AAMDC to ensure they are aware of the GOA’s direction, and to offer assistance in updating their members.
The Government of Alberta’s response indicates that they are not able to form a formal multi-stakeholder working group to inform the development of a new SuperNet operating agreement, mainly due to time constraints and the pace at which the process is moving. RMA appreciates the willingness with which Service Alberta has shared information related to the new operating agreement, as well as the consideration that Service Alberta has shown for the importance of improving rural broadband access. RMA hopes that this recognition is reflected in the new operating agreement. Despite the positive relationship that RMA has with Service Alberta related to the SuperNet, it is disappointing that a working group that more directly integrates the perspectives of individual rural municipalities cannot be formed to better inform the process. RMA has been informed that Service Alberta is planning to develop a working group in 2019 to guide the implementation of the province-wide broadband strategy, and that the working group will likely involve RMA or rural municipal representation. The working group has not yet been formed at this point.
This resolution is assigned the status of Intent Not Met, although RMA looks forward to continuing to collaborate with Service Alberta on this matter, through the broadband strategy working group and other means.