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Monday, May 16, 2005

High Speed Internet comes to Entwistle
A Cautionary Tale of the Lunacy of the Alberta Government

Waiting for high speed Internet to come to my hometown has been a long, difficult wait. The only ISP in town is Telus, who only offers good ol' dial-up connections. I used to routinely phone Telus and complain about this. Telus's simple, unapologetic response was "There's no demand for high speed Internet in Entwistle."

So, I'd phone up Persona Cable; the local cable company. Many cable bills had the little announcement, "We now offer high speed Internet in (small rural Alberta town)." I'd call them and ask when they'd bring high speed Internet to Entwistle. The answer I'd get from them was quite the runaround:

Them>> Well, see, in order to bring high speed Internet to these small towns, we need to lay the cable and set up the infastructure. we just can't afford to do that. So, we usually wait for some other company to set it up, and then we just piggyback on their equipment. And yes, it's legal.
Me>> Huh. So, let me guess, the company that you usually wait to set up the infastructure is....
Them>> Telus. Yes, Telus.

I started seeing a grand conspiracy of Telus not bringing high speed Internet to small rural towns in order to maintain a monopoly. Oh, curse those X-Files reruns!

But, many people in Entwistle got sick of waiting for Telus. And most of those people sit on the Entwistle Businesses Association. I'm sure you quite know that most businesses benefit from high speed Internet, especially in this day and age. The EBA started looking around and taking bids for an ISP to bring high speed Internet to Entwistle.

The winner is a company from the east called Xplornet. The EBA welcomed them to the Entwistle business community, and they've been working hard over the past few weeks to bring the Internet to town. Xplornet is wireless Internet access. Xplornet is borrowing a few cellphone towers around the area, when we people sign up we get a little receiver to mount on our roofs (an antenna or a dish, depedning on how far you are from the tower) and you've got high speed Internet.

Xplorenet's got it all set up. They begin testing this week. And they'll start offereing service to the general public in late May/early June.

Now, how does the Alberta Government fit into this? Well, this goes all the way back to the provincial election in 2001. One of Ralph Klein's election promises was to bring high speed Internet to all of the provinces schools and libraries. The project was called "Supernet," and was supposed to be set up within a year after Klein's re-election.

Here we are, 4 years later, and the company that won the contract to build Supernet has about 25% of the province wired. The province has threatened all kinds of legal action against the company. That's a whole other scandal I won't get into here.

The big scandal that's gone unnoticed is the more frustrating one. See, how it worked was the government and the Supernet contractor would lay the fibre optic cable into the town and establish the hub for the town; a small tin shack, kind of like a phone exchange. And that's as far as the government would go. At this point, it would become the responsibility of the local library and/or school to pony up the money to run the cable the rest of the way. Now, this is high end fibre optic cable we're talking. Depending on how far the schools and libraries are from the hub, it could cost anywhere between $1000 and $100,000 to run the cable; money expected to come out of the pocket of the libraries and schools.

Here in Entwistle, the Supernet folks from the government built our hub and brought the cable into town 2 years ago. But, the school and the library couldn't afford to run the cable the rest of the way. It's just been sitting there for 2 years. Other businesses in town approached the government about hooking into it, but the government always said no. "It was promised to the libraries and schools first," said the government. "Until the libraries and schools come up with the money to hook up, no one gets it."

Anyway, after the 2004 election and a little cabinet reshuffling, the Government of Alberta now sees Gary Mar as the Minister of Infastructure. What does this have to do with anything? Well, you see, the Minister of Infastructre has the task of deciding when and where to build government buildings; buildings like libraries and schools. Seizing the opportunity to set up a pretty good little legacy for himself, Gary Mar opened the government cash gates and now the schools and libraries have the money to hook up to Supernet.

The Entwistle School and Library officially switched on their high speed Internet on Friday.

Today, Persona Cable announced that, piggybacking on the Supernet infastructure, they'll start offering high speed Internet in Entwistle.

And the people in Entwistle lived happily ever after, being able to now download porn at the speed of light.

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