By J.W. Schnarr
The Village of Barnwell may soon be getting off the service road and into the high-speed digital freeway of fibre optic Internet service.
During their regular meeting on March 19, Barnwell council discussed an opportunity for Barnwell residents to get connected to the Alberta SuperNet fibre optic system, provided at least 30 per cent of local residents express an interest in the service.
“They would like us to do the footwork and get the largest number of people we can before they come in and install the service.” said Deputy Mayor Darrell Turner.
“It makes sense,” said Mayor Eric Jensen.
“They’re not going to come in and do this for one house. They need a level of commitment from the village as well.”
Jensen said a similar agreement reached by the Town of Vulcan resulting in some horizontal drilling, but much of the lines were installed along power and cable lines.
“That way there’s minimal disruption and intrusion to property owners and the property,” he said.
He added the people he had spoken to in Vulcan had not heard many complaints from residents.
The SuperNet connects more than 4,700 government facilities, including government offices, hospitals, schools, libraries, municipal offices and provincial courts in Alberta.
The SuperNet cost hundreds of millions of dollars to put in place, and has been soundly criticized in recent years for the lack of access for rural residents and businesses.
Turner said the village already has access to the SuperNet, a high-speed network comprised of 13,000 km of fibre, and 2,000 km of wireless connections.
“We have it in Barnwell already,” said Turner.
“It’s called the SuperNet. And Axia is the keeper of the SuperNet. They are the ones who have been hired to basically run it.”
He added there has been immense pressure from the provincial government to open the SuperNet to Alberta residents so they can have more access to high-speed Internet services.
Bateman said Axia was hoping local residents will visit their website in order to let the company know there is a large amount of interest in the area.
This did not mean signing up for anything at this point, but simply giving the company a ballpark number to gauge interest.
She also said hookup up could cost as much as $200 with basic packages beginning at $59 for 25 mbps Internet speeds.
“It has to be better than the high speed Internet we have now,” joked Turner.
Mayor Jensen said this was not just a Barnwell issue, as he has been hearing about it with other municipalities around the province.
“This has been brought up to our mayors and reeves meetings for the last six months,” he said.
“Just about every meeting it’s been brought up. I’m sure it’s all of Alberta, but especially the communities in southern Alberta have been very frustrated. It’s there in our community but you can’t access it. It’s like the tap is there but they took the handle off and you can’t get access to it.”
Bateman said Axia has a yearly budget for expansion, so the sooner local residents interested in gaining access to high speed internet signal that interest to the company, the sooner Axia might bring the service to Barnwell.
Turner made a request to invite Axia to a future council meeting to discuss it further.
In the meantime, Mayor Jensen said he would like to see advertising to local residents asking them to pre-sign on the Axia website if they are interested.
Anyone from Barnwell interested in more information is asked to visit the Axia website at http://www.axia.com.