February 9, 2022

County Receives Federal Funding for Rural Broadband Program

Several Yellowhead County communities to benefit as part of a Government of Canada investment to bring high-speed Internet to underserved communities in Alberta

(February 9, 2022 – Yellowhead County will receive funding as part of the Government of Canada’s
Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) to bring broadband services to several underserved areas in the
western part of the County.
In 2014, Yellowhead County started work on our municipality’s Rural Communications Strategy. It was part of a multi-year plan to develop and build a Yellowhead County Tower Network System with a goal to enhance connectivity to underserviced areas in the County.
Yellowhead County needed to build a more robust and reliable backbone system network for cell
service, broadband internet service, Protective Services communications connectivity and wildland fire detection.

There are four key parts of the Yellowhead County Tower Network System:

  1. Internal staff and Protective Services connectivity
  2. Enhanced cellular service by co-locating ISP providers on County Towers
  3. Broadband Internet provisions for Yellowhead County residents
  4. Early-Warning wildland fire detection system

The project began with the first two tower tenders going out to the Alberta Purchasing Connection
(APC) site for bidders to build two towers – one in Wildwood the other in Obed.
Since the 2014 project start, Yellowhead County has been able to place 11 tower projects on the APC site allowing bidders from all over Canada the chance to participate in building towers, and benefiting the economy. Enabling this project also extends coverage to many regions that previously had poor or no ability for connectivity. This also began to lay the backbone for a broadband system and a platform for cell phone providers and internet service providers.
Tower sites are strategically placed to allow for fibre connection, microwave links, industry needs,
emergency services and staff coverage, and to provide coverage and connectivity to residents. These towers can offer numerous immediate advantages, including expanding the public safety communications infrastructure (through emergency services) and providing communications services for our industry ratepayers.
Federal Grant Funding
Part of the ongoing Rural Communications plan was for Yellowhead County to find ways to provide
broadband services in a cost-effective manner.
Yellowhead County has been applying for all available Provincial and Federal grants that would fund the Rural Communications Plan since 2014.
In December of 2020, the Federal Government created a program under the Universal Broadband
Fund (UBF) called the Rapid Response Stream. This fund was for shovel-ready projects identified by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) as having inadequate or no coverage.
There was a very short timeline for responses to be sent in. A section of the western part of Yellowhead County met the ISED requirements and funding limits.
During the grant application process, Yellowhead County worked with several Canadian partners who specialize in this industry to research and develop the data needed for the grant application. Yellowhead County has been ready to work with the best-qualified companies to help the County meet the grant requirements. The partners included both local and national companies who all have a presence in our province and were determined to be the best fit for the project.
The grant application was successful, and the project to provide Robb, Brule, Mountain View Estates, Aspen Heights, Seabolt, Grandview, Maskuta, Carldale and Yellowhead County East River Road with better broadband services is now underway with the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund.
The number of households that this grant will directly assist in Yellowhead County is 395 residences located in the communities listed above.
This federal grant will allow Yellowhead County to continue to build the network’s backbone and expand cellular and broadband services throughout the region. The grant enables Yellowhead County to continue to build an expanding open network that any service provider can use to provide services to county residents and industry. The goal is to get fibre connections to as many households as possible and create new wireless options where fibre is not an option. This network will be an entirely new system and will not use old, unsupported, and outdated infrastructure already in place.
Households in these locations identified by Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) Canada for the project will have an option to get fibre lines directly to their residences. This will be a one-time opportunity with no cost to the property owner for the installation of the fibre connection.
County residents and businesses, however, must still rely on the interest of commercial cellular and internet providers to bring in these services. But as Yellowhead County has effectively covered the cost of infrastructure development—with support from the grant funding—commercial service providers have only to attach their services to these towers. Yellowhead County has made it easier for service providers to bring their coverage to our communities, but it’s still up to them to see this enticing business opportunity.
The funding breakdown for the Rapid Response Program project and the grant amount is:
Total project cost: $7,579,236 dollars
(Total Eligible cost: $7,543,291.00 dollars)
Rapid Response Stream Federal grant: $4,525,975. dollars
Yellowhead County portion of the project: $3,811,184.63 (includes 10% contingency)
Yellowhead County has also applied for additional funding under Canada’s Connectivity Strategy’s UBF program to allow more network backbone to be built in all populated areas of Yellowhead County.
Ongoing System Builds:
While there are several additional places in the County that could benefit from better coverage, the next two sites waiting for Provincial grants that have been applied for are located in the McKay and Evansburg areas. These two new locations, if funded, will continue to allow Yellowhead County to develop an infrastructure backbone to support the ever-increasing need for high-speed internet and cellular connectivity for Yellowhead County residents, staff, first responders, emergency services and other protective services such as early wildfire protection, as well as industry, and other stakeholders.
As residents continue to rely more and more on these services for school, business, safety, and day-to-day living – and business and industry need this infrastructure backbone to operate in our more remote areas, Yellowhead County’s Broadband Tower Network System continues to be a vital infrastructure service to our communities and region for continued growth and viability.
The Government of Canada’s News Release can be found at https://bit.ly/3BoFb8Z