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Sask. pledges “100 per cent” high-speed coverage

Saskatchewan’s government promises to put up $90 million over three years to bring high-speed Internet coverage to the entire province.

The funding for Crown phone and Internet firm SaskTel will go toward a $129 million infrastructure plan to improve rural Internet service, expand the CommunityNet high-speed network and build 50 new cellular phone towers.

The company aims to fully fund the plan through the federal government’s Building Canada plan and through grants from Industry and Northern Affairs to expand high-speed and cellular coverage to 29 First Nation communities.

“Every business owner, every child in school, every senior wanting to improve their education will soon have access to high speed regardless of where they live in our province,” Premier Brad Wall said in a provincial release Wednesday.

The proposed plan includes $30 million in infrastructure upgrades to Saskatchewan’s data transport network, which in turn would provide basic high speed Internet access to 187 communities. “Basic” high speed is defined as a rate of five megabits per second (Mbps).

Another $41.5 million would go toward expanding the functionality of the existing CommunityNet network of 256 towns by doubling the speeds to institutions at the same rates and adding about 90 new communities to the CommunityNet network.

Furthermore, about $9.4 million would go to expand “last mile” rural broadband infrastructure, using fixed wireless and satellite technology, to get to 100 per cent coverage.

A further $48 million will go toward construction of about 50 new digital cellular towers across the province, “resulting in cell phone coverage for 98 per cent of the population.”

Wall, in his release, described 100 per cent high-speed coverage as “our own 21st-century version of the last spike in the Canadian Pacific Railway and an important investment in rural Saskatchewan that will sustain and solidify economic growth.”

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