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Broadband services provided to rural Islanders


December 9, 2008
By Alyssa Dalton

Prince Edward Island’s premier, Robert Ghiz, said the Island’s government has entered into a development agreement with Aliant that will see Aliant investing $8.2 million to extend broadband services to every community in the province, the establishment of a $1-million Joint Innovation Fund, and the renewal of the government’s telecom contract.

“The
agreement which we are announcing today fulfils one of the government’s
major commitments made during the last election campaign,” said Allan
Campbell, P.E.I.’s fisheries, aquaculture and rural development
minister. “This new service will be of major benefit to individuals and
businesses throughout rural Prince Edward Island, and will enable them
to become more competitive through the use of new technologies.”




The
agreement also allows for the renewal of the government’s
telecommunications contract with Aliant—which includes local and long
distance services—for a further five years, with a total cost-saving of
$2.5 million over current rates.




The
minister said that Aliant is the largest information and communications
company in Prince Edward Island and will play a key role in the
continued development of the information technology sector. Over the
next five years, Aliant and the provincial government will invest
$500,000 each toward a new information technology innovation fund to
promote and develop Internet-based applications and uses for Island
businesses.




“We are
very pleased to partner with the government of P.E.I. on these
important initiatives. Today underscores the tremendous power of
partnership and our shared commitment to keep this region at the
forefront of innovation,” said Bruce Howatt, Aliant’s vice-president
for Prince Edward Island. “Together, through this significant
investment in our broadband network and the innovation fund, we will
continue to foster greater opportunities to learn, to access
information and to deliver new services.”




Campbell
said the new agreement is part of the provincial government’s
commitment to rural development. “It is estimated that more than 25% of
Islanders and rural businesses do not have access to high-speed
Internet,” he said, adding, “This new service will help stimulate rural
businesses and improve the quality of life for people living in rural
communities. At the core of this strategy is that rural Islanders—like
their urban counterparts—have the opportunity to receive the same level
of services at a fair price.”




During
the last election campaign, the provincial government made a commitment
to provide rural broadband services throughout Prince Edward Island.
This commitment was later reinforced in the 2008 budget and in the new
economic blueprint, “Island Prosperity, A Focus for Change”. The
provincial government further announced its commitment on the signing
of the Canada-Prince Edward Island framework agreement on
infrastructure. Under that agreement, an estimated $5 million was
expected to be allocated to the project. It was anticipated that a
request for proposals would be issued.




The
Aliant proposal was unsolicited. The provincial government and Aliant
have entered into a development agreement under which Aliant has
committed to the following:




• an investment of $8.2 million, with no government funding

• broadband access for any Islander who wants it

• a uniform rate structure across the province

• the majority of expansion to be completed by 2009

• the provision of $500,000 toward a new IT innovation fund (to be matched by the provincial government)

• the exploration of mutually beneficial IT development opportunities between Aliant and the provincial government

• making access available to its network by other ISP companies



As part
of the agreement, the provincial government renewed its telephone
services contract with Aliant for a further five years. Aliant will
provide a discount which will result in a total savings to government
of $2.5 million over the five years. (Extending telephone contract
services without a request for proposals has been a common practice of
previous administrations.)