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Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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SuperNet

Out of necessity, Alberta has always been at the forefront of technological development in Canada. This province was the first area in North America to benefit from the use of cable modems, and now boasts over 500 telecommunications companies that offer a variety of services.

Nonetheless, Albertans living in more remote communities have acutely felt the disparity between their levels of technological advancement and those found in more urban areas. In the past, this was troubling as remote communications were seen as a primary reason for continued research and development in this area.

The Alberta Science and Research Authority (ASRA), a publicly appointed body devoted to scientific progress throughout the province, responded to this concern by releasing a report suggesting ways to strengthen the information and communications technology sector. Published in 1998, the report included a recommendation for enhancing communications by creating a uniform level of basic service throughout the province.

In February 2000, the government of Alberta acted on this recommendation by initiating SuperNet, a high-speed, high-capacity network that would link government offices, schools, health-care facilities and libraries. The project would be jointly run by the province and a private agency.

Two years later, the province announced an ambitious roll-out schedule for their collaborative technology, and some of SuperNet’s components became operational. 14 months later, 30 percent of the proposed total network area was online, and schools were among the program’s primary subscribers. These institutions paid an affordable rate for access to this new infrastructure, and used it to exchange distance learning materials.

Today, Alberta SuperNet offers broadband service to 4,700 individual facilities in over 420 communities. These connections have been established through 12,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable, at the cost of nearly $200 million. SuperNet has also made remote communities more accessible to service providers, resulting in increased levels of high-speed internet and telecommunication services in these areas.

Because the private agencies responsible for building this network also collect the revenues generated by it, SuperNet is self-sustaining and has the capacity to grow as needs change.

 


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