Saskatchewan Government to Fund 100% Broadband Access

North America’s leader in broadband penetration may soon be Saskatchewan. Via CBC, the government of Saskatchewan is making a large investment with the ambitious goal of 100% broadband access.

Premier Brad Wall, who made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday morning, likened the plan to the “last spike” when the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed.

To make it happen, the government is giving $90 million to the Crown-owned phone company, SaskTel for a program to improve rural telecommunications infrastructure.

Currently, about 86 per cent of the population has access to high-speed internet. SaskTel plans to get to 100 per cent through a combination of wireless and satellite technology.

The program will also see construction of 50 new cellphone towers, increasing cell coverage from the current 96 per cent to 98 per cent.

SaskTel is one of the last telecom companies in Canada to still be Crown-owned. Comments to the article jokingly suggest that one tall wifi tower in the centre of the province would be sufficent to connect the entire flat province. At the same time, comments are also interspersed with complaints about Rogers, Bell, and Telus. It’s getting hard to deny that broadband Internet isn’t an essential service, but is public ownership the only way that full rural coverage can happen?