SaskTel aims to bridge the digital divide in rural Saskatchewan through new partnership program
September 13, 2021
Today SaskTel announced the launch of its Rural Broadband Partnership Program, a new initiative that will see SaskTel partner with internet providers to bring advanced broadband connectivity to underserved farms, acreages, Indigenous communities and other hard to serve rural areas in Saskatchewan.
“Maximizing rural Saskatchewan’s access to modern broadband internet is a key priority for our government,” said Don Morgan, Minister Responsible for SaskTel. “SaskTel’s new partnership model will ensure that all Saskatchewan residents and businesses can participate and succeed in the modern world.”
“We are firmly committed to connecting the people of Saskatchewan, and even though we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in our rural networks across the province, we understand that there are areas we can’t reach alone,” said Doug Burnett, SaskTel President and CEO . “With the Rural Broadband Partnership Program, we’ll be better able to bridge the digital divide that exists in some areas of Saskatchewan and ensure that more rural families and businesses can take advantage of the latest digital tools and technologies to connect, learn, and pursue business opportunities.”
With the province’s largest wireline and wireless networks, SaskTel currently delivers broadband speeds that meet or exceed the CRTC’s 50/10 benchmark (50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload) to 85% of the population of the province. Through this partnership program, SaskTel will work with internet providers to expand their coverage areas with the specific aim to bring 50/10 unlimited broadband service, or better, to more Saskatchewan households.
SaskTel has received strong interest in the Rural Broadband Partnership Program from several local rural internet providers, with H and K Rural Networks Inc, Living Sky Internet, and Wood River Controls currently signed on. Additionally, as the first provider to partner with SaskTel, Wood River Controls has already utilized the program to bring broadband service to the Last Mountain Lake area, the Muscowpetung First Nation and is also working on a project near Lake Diefenbaker.
“Muscowpetung hasn’t had the best internet and when the pandemic first hit, we saw how unprepared we were which is why we made it a top priority to get better internet service for our nation,” said Melissa Tavita, Chief of the Muscowpetung First Nation. “Thanks to the partnership between SaskTel and Wood River Controls, we’ve been able to get improved internet and are able to take our work home and have video conference calls while also having our children be able to do online learning in a smooth efficient way without lag or buffering. Looking ahead, it’s important that we continue to work on projects that improve the connectivity of our nation to bring us into 2021.”
The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), which created a Broadband Action Committee with the clear goal of improving broadband service for all underserved Saskatchewan residents, has also supported the development and launch of SaskTel’s partnership program.
“SARM aims to achieve parity for all Saskatchewan residents, regardless of your address, when it comes to the availability of this essential service that many rural areas are lacking,” said SARM President, Ray Orb. “COVID-19 identified the importance of immediate investment into broadband and enhanced collaboration between internet service providers. We are hopeful that this new program will be successful in both regards.”
Added Burnett, “We’re pleased to work with other service providers who are interested in investing in Saskatchewan and understand the challenges that come with serving rural areas to create a more connected future for our province.”
SaskTel is the leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) provider in Saskatchewan, with over $1.3 billion in annual revenue and approximately 1.4 million customer connections including 639,000 wireless accesses, 289,000 wireline network accesses, 289,000 internet accesses, 114,000 maxTV subscribers, and 81,000 security monitoring customers. SaskTel and its wholly-owned subsidiaries offer a wide range of ICT products and services including competitive voice, data and Internet services, wireless data services, maxTV services, data centre services, cloud-based services, security monitoring services, advertising services, and international software and consulting services. SaskTel and its wholly-owned subsidiaries have a workforce of approximately 3,400 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). Visit SaskTel at www.sasktel.com.