Companies seek M.D. support to apply for federal cash to improve rural Internet service

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

With the recent federal government announcement of $500 million to improve rural Internet access, companies are lining up to get in on the action. Two of them approached the M.D. of Lesser Slave River recently, seeking support for their funding applications under the Connect to Innovate program.
Both Slave Lake Communications and CCI Wireless are seeking grants to put in infrastructure needed to bring better Internet service to ill-served rural residents of the M.D.
“We are applying for funding to install new microwave backbone infrastructure to eligible communities within M.D. 124,” said a letter from Slave Lake Communications owner Scott Brownlee. “Once the backbone infrastructure is in place, we intend to fund last-mile projects ourselves.”
Backbone refers to towers; ‘last-mile’ refers to line-of-sight connections to individual properties, Brownlee explained to council.
‘Eligible’ communities include Canyon Creek, Widewater, Sawridge First Nation, Moose Portage, Hondo and Chisholm, according to a list in council’s agenda package.
The information in council’s package said CCI Wireless wants the grant “to service Hondo and Slave Lake towers.”
Councillor Brad Pearson asked if Sniper Communications had been heard from. They’d been contacted, CAO Allan Winarski said, but there was no response.
Pearson also asked about how satellite Internet service compares to what’s being proposed. Brownlee said there’s a factor with satellite connection called ‘latency,’ that causes a lag and apparently there’s no getting around it.
With satellite Internet, he said, “your kids are going to yell at you that they’re lagging.”
Council passed separate motions to provide letters of support to both applicants.
“We need enhanced service,” said councillor Mike Skrynyk. “We’re not supporting individual companies.”

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