Town council and local businesses are trying to find a solution to an Internet shortage affecting Stettler.
“Obviously, I want the problem fixed yesterday, but that’s not going to happen,” Mayor Dick Richards said Monday.
Darrin Bosomworth of Artemis Computers and Andrew Brysiuk, director of technology services for the County of Stettler, made a presentation to town council last Tuesday.
“It’s reached the point where businesses and developments can no longer function,” Bosomworth said.
In 2012, Statistics Canada found that 86 per cent of households in Alberta had Internet access, which is second only to British Columbia. But some businesses have been unable to rely on their Internet.
Bosomworth has been examining the problem and trying to find solutions for the past year.
“There’s no watchdog here,” he said. “It’s up to the consumers to create a ruckus.”
There are at least two problems with Internet access in Stettler: geography and capacity.
Faster-expanding areas of town — specifically, the east industrial section of Stettler and developments on the west side — don’t have the infrastructure needed for Internet access.
“My Internet is not a whole bunch better than dial-up,” said Greg Tschritter of GT Hydraulic and Bearing, Inc.
Tschritter acquired a new business in Rocky Mountain House in the fall. He runs both businesses out of Stettler, but because of the Internet issues, it’s causing problems.
“The speeds out here impede my ability to do business in Rocky Mountain House,” he said.
Affected businesses are having trouble connecting to the Internet and doing ordering and billing.
“It’s been a tremendous problem,” Brad Wohlgemuth of Auto Trust told council. “It’s been getting progressively worse.”
The other problem is that Stettler’s main Internet providers — Telus, Shaw and Xplornet — are at or above capacity.
Brysiuk said Telus and Shaw say they’re committed to resolving capacity issues in the next two to six months, which he believes is positive news.
The geography issue is more difficult to resolve, as Brysiuk said the cost is “cumbersome.” It would cost Shaw about $900,000 to $1 million to lay more cable in the east industrial sector of town.
Brysiuk and Bosomworth presented two possible Internet solutions to council.
The first would be to exert political pressure on Internet providers to work on solving the problem.
Because Bosomworth represents a private business, he said that there’s only so much he can do when dealing with Telus and Shaw.
So far, town administration has expressed its concerns to Shaw and Telus, and has set up a face-to-face meeting with Telus for early April.
“They’ve (the town) gotten farther in one week than I have in a year,” Bosomworth said.
The other solution is to encourage a wireless Internet service provider (WISP) to help improve the service.
A WISP, however, would need to spend $50,000 to $100,000 to acquire a tower or tower space. The investment is considered risky because Telus or Shaw could expand at any time and “take their business.”
Mayor Richards told the delegation last week that improving Internet access in Stettler is high on council’s list of priorities.
“My major concern is not the ability for my 10-year-old daughter to download Netflix in high speed,” Richards said. “When it affects businesses, it’s big, it’s important.”