Big Lakes County wins broadband windfall

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

A grant of more than $180,000 has been awarded to Big Lakes County to spearhead a study on broadband services in the region. The funding comes via the Alberta Community Partnerships program.
The money goes towards the Inter-Municipal Broadband Discovery Project, a joint effort of the county, the Town of High Prairie and the Town of Swan Hills. With each of them contributing $5,000, the total budget is just over $200,000. Other partners include the Regional Tri-Council, made up of the Town of Slave Lake, the M.D. of Lesser Slave River and the Sawridge First Nation.
“This infrastructure is needed to not only expand our region’s economic development,” he told council, “but to further our education, health and day-to-day needs,” Big Lakes’ director of community services Jordan Panasiuk told council at its Apr. 12 meeting.
So what happens next?
“We need to hire a project manager and come up with a plan with options of best ways to enhance broadband in the region,” Panasiuk said. “We hope to get the project done in one year.”
Panasiuk said he hopes to create a committee of people with technical expertise in broadband to work with the manager. He plans to host stakeholder meetings from June through September.
Big Lakes also plans to connect its project with the Northern Alberta Development Council (NADC) and the Northern Alberta Broadband Preparedness Project, in local partnership with the Lesser Slave Lake Economic Alliance.
“We want to use the NADC project to build a more specific business case for our region,” Panasiuk said.

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