Kneehill County will head a regional broadband exploration as part of the Kneehill Regional Partnership (KRP) and will contribute $2,000 towards the expected costs following approval at the regular Tuesday, April 26 council meeting.
Discussions about conducting the broadband study have been ongoing between Kneehill County and KRP since November 2021 and the project was approved by the partnership in March 2022.
“Connectivity in Kneehill County is lacking, and an investigation of the current state of broadband is required to determine where gaps in service are so we can identify long-term solutions to improve connectivity,” Economic Development officer Jacqueline Buchanan shared during the meeting.
Ms. Buchanan further explained the Alberta Broadband Strategy offers funding for shovel ready broadband projects, but not to conduct broadband studies or develop strategies.
While funding is not available for these studies and strategies, the information gathered is integral to bringing a project to shovel readiness.
The Regional Broadband Study will be broken down into three phases, and the first phase will capture the needs and desired outcomes of the five KRP member municipalities-the towns of Three Hills and Trochu, villages of Acme, Carbon, and Linden, and Kneehill County. This information will help set the direction for the actual broadband study, which will be carried out in Phase Two.
It is expected Phase Two will be complete by the end of 2022, though there is no current timeline for when Phase Three will begin.
In March, Kneehill County approved removing some $35,000 from its 2022 Operating budget for a broadband study, but acknowledged this funding could be brought back for council consideration if the project was approved by KRP to move forward.
This is much higher than the $10,000 budget for Phase One as it was determined the information captured during this portion of the project will be necessary to move forward with the actual study; both the Phase One and full broadband study were initially budgeted together.
Council approved a maximum budget of $2,000 for the KRP Regional Broadband Study Phase One with a vote of five in favour and two opposed. This funding will be taken from the Corporate Initiatives budget due to its previous removal from the Operating budget.