Bridging the digital divide in Saskatchewan

Northern Saskatchewan is about to become one of the most connected areas in Canada.

A recently launched project will effectively eliminate the so-called digital divide between the province’s urban and rural areas.

The two-year, $8.9 million initiative involves the installation of high-speed Internet across 35 northern communities. It is designed to improve access to health services, online education and electronic commerce in the region.

Besides equipping the area with leading-edge technology equal to any urban community in Canada, high-speed access will also revolutionize information and services access for these communities. And this, in turn, will mean “a better life for northerners,” according to Saskatchewan Northern Affairs Minister, Buckley Belanger.

Federal-provincial funding of $2 million for the project was announced by Belanger and Federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale. The funds will be invested through the Canada-Saskatchewan Northern Development Agreement (NDA).

In April, Industry Canada committed $3-million to the project through its Broadband for Rural and Northern Development Program (BRAND).

BRAND is a national program committed to bringing broadband service to rural communities to help surmount distance barriers. The project fosters technological advances in Aboriginal governments and banking institutions, it also promotes distance educational programs for northerners, and encourages northern businesses to market their services and products to the across the country and overseas.

SaskTel will install, supply and maintain the entire infrastructure needed for high-speed Internet for residential, commercial and institutional customers under the direction of the Northern Broadband Network (NBN).

It will also provide training and employment opportunities on the project for northern residents. Work will be completed by late 2006.

Environmental approval for the project is underway and will be completed in the near future.

Related Articles:

Ontario halts funding for rural broadband, (Aug. 20, 2004)

Federal government invests in rural connectivity, (Oct. 6, 2003)

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