The province of Alberta’s ambitious SuperNet project – intent on connecting users from all portions of the province to the Internet – has entered the critical stages of actually ploughing for fibre-optic cable, according to an announcement Monday.

The provincial government has invested a whopping $193 million to ready 4,700 facilities and 422 communities for access to the Internet. Bell West has added another $102 million of its own money for infrastructure costs. In October, Bell began building the inter-exchange transport fibre between Lethbridge and Calgary that will require 215 kilometres of route fibre to be installed.

In accordance with a deal Bell made with the government to use existing fibre where available for the interconnection between Edmonton and Calgary, the telco will use fibre from service provider 360networks. The route represents 332 kilometres of pre-existing pipe that runs through Red Deer, Alta. As part of the agreement, 360networks will provide the maintenance to this portion of the network for a minimum of 20 years.

To date, Bell has completed its fibre connections in Calgary, Airdrie, Red Deer, Lacombe, Leduc, Wetaskiwin and Edmonton. In addition, 27 Government of Alberta sites in Edmonton and Calgary are also lit for service.

With an array of legal and municipal implications at play, one area where the project had run into difficulty was in regards to the public’s perception of when the physical aspects of the project would commence.

“You announce a project like this and people expect to see trucks out there the next day plowing,” said Brian Olafson, vice-president for the SuperNet project in Edmonton. While the pace seemed initially slow, Olafason said they expect a vast uptake in the actually ploughing of the fibre by early next spring.

The impetus for developing the SuperNet is centred on three facets in the province – the accessibility of education, health care and all public sector information; database requirements; and business use. In the commercial sense, “A lot of businesses in Alberta operate in small communities and globally (and) they need the bandwidth to connect to their customers,” Olafson said.

And while Alberta may be the first province in Canada to adopt such an all- encompassing fibre strategy, he added that on some level, all the provinces across the country will have to deal with the fibre issue “in some way.”

As the project continues to progress, it is expected that Bell will also use dark fibre from either five of the cable companies operating in Alberta or from a handful of other telcos that already have installed fibre.

For additional information, visit the Alberta SuperNet online at