WHEREAS establishing a fibre optic network is essential for the provision of high speed internet services within the Province of Alberta and is a key element for future rural economic development; and
WHEREAS the Alberta SuperNet was constructed by the Province of Alberta at a cost of four hundred million dollars to provide a fibre optic high-speed wireless system across the Province; and
WHEREAS the Province of Alberta, through the Minister of Service Alberta, administers an agreement with Axia SuperNet Ltd. (a private corporation) for the management and operation of the Alberta SuperNet infrastructure under an agreement which is not public and which will expire in 2018; and
WHEREAS Axia SuperNet Ltd. has kept the price for access to the SuperNet high as compared to other fibre optic service providers; and
WHEREAS Axia SuperNet Ltd. has entered the retail market which conflicts with their Alberta SuperNet management role and which places them at a competitive advantage over other internet service providers; and
WHEREAS the underutilization of the fibre optic network within Alberta is directly attributable to the management of this public infrastructure by a private corporation focused on private profits rather than on a public good;
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.
Concerns regarding the Axia SuperNet Agreement:
Although the Alberta SuperNet was built utilizing $400 million in public funds and is recognized within Service Alberta’s own website information as being an ‘essential service,’ the agreement between Service Alberta and Axia SuperNet has never been made public. The agreement has been renewed temporarily until 2018, however it is the opinion of many within the industry, local government and the public at large that it is time to critically examine how this public utility can be better administered to foster the delivery of broadband service to Albertans generally.
A service as critical to rural Alberta as access to high speed broadband requires a review of the current agreement and a complete transformation of the current manner in which the Alberta SuperNet is administered and managed to one which truly reflects the public and critical nature of high speed broadband internet service.
Recognition that the Alberta SuperNet is critical infrastructure for Alberta businesses and that the Axia SuperNet Agreement has needlessly stifled the development and propagation of this service is essential for the delivery of broadband service to Albertans into the future.
According to the Service Alberta website (http://www.servicealberta.gov.ab.ca/1561.cfm) the SuperNet seeks to deliver the following:
The Alberta SuperNet was built to connect public institutions across the province – schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, libraries, and municipal offices – to a broadband network for high-speed Internet access, video conferencing, and other services. It’s a network of fibre cables and towers currently reaching 429 communities across Alberta.
Public sector customers:
Government, learning, health, library and municipal (GoA/LHLM) end users across the province
Residential and business customers in rural/remote Alberta:
The SuperNet delivers these common benefits to Albertans:
Access to high-speed Internet service is an essential service and critical foundational element for economic development in Alberta. The Government of Alberta (GoA) has been working to make access possible for all Alberta homes and businesses.
In 2005, the GoA’s completion of the Alberta SuperNet resulted in delivery of a high-speed communications backbone across Alberta connecting over 4,200 schools, hospitals, libraries, government and municipal offices in 429 communities. Delivery of Internet access from this communications backbone and others was and still remains the responsibility of local Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Alberta has a competitive environment for providing Internet services in rural areas. Outside of urban areas, this is accomplished primarily through Fixed Wireless Access (FWA).
Feedback on the Alberta SuperNet
Currently Service Alberta is requesting feedback on the use, need and potential innovations around broadband services in the Province of Alberta. Opinions can be forwarded to the following email address: email@example.com
8-14F: Improvement of High-Speed Internet Services in Rural Alberta
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to make the investments necessary to improve high-speed internet services in rural Alberta.
Service Alberta: Service Alberta is actively engaged in a complete review of the current SuperNet agreements. Better access to information opens doors for all Albertans, including enabling new online government services and helping rural communities to ensure their sustainability. While most Albertans have access to basic levels of Internet, we recognize that this is only a beginning and does not address the growing demands for increased capacity, quality, performance and price equity across the province.
With the SuperNet contracts expiring in 2018, Service Alberta has been working on a 10?year digital strategy to leverage the government’s initial investment to meet the needs of public sector service delivery and to better support reliable, competitive and affordable Internet for rural Albertans.
In addition to the work being led by Service Alberta on the digital strategy, the ministry continues to work with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and representatives from other key ministries to review the opportunities to improve high-speed Internet access in rural Alberta in support of the Rural Economic Development Action Plan. These teams continue to propose solutions to address the unique challenges and opportunities surrounding rural Internet service delivery.
Service Alberta understands that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to address rural broadband, and the ministry will continue to seek the input of municipalities and community champions as we develop our strategies.
The Government of Alberta has developed an RFP for a new SuperNet operator when Axia’s contract expires in 2018, and is in the process of developing a new operating agreement to ensure that the SuperNet better supports both pubic sector connectivity and rural development. 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. At this point, the RFP has been distributed to three pre-approved vendors: Bell, Telus, and Axia. Service Alberta plans to have a new contract in place by the end of 2017.
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.