Local officials are welcoming the news that Telus is bringing its fibre optic network to Stettler this year, investing millions to upgrade its infrastructure to improve the Internet service available to homes and businesses.
Tony Geheran, president of broadband networks for Telus, said the company is investing around $9 million to bring the fibre optic experience to Stettler.
Geheran was in town last week, visiting the Telus office downtown to make the announcement to a group of current and former company employees on Wednesday, Feb. 4.
The new service will allow customers to access speeds up to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) — fast enough to download a 3.5-gigabyte movie in high definition in six minutes.
By contrast, Telus customers in Stettler are currently limited to a speed of 6 Mbps or less — and some have had trouble reaching even that modest level of service, due to the outdated infrastructure in place locally.
Geheran said Telus has been working on a plan to bring this improved service to Stettler after the town reached out to the company last year.
“We are looking for progressive municipalities that have a strategic vision for their community,” he explained, adding that they were impressed by their conversations with Mayor Dick Richards and other local leaders.
In choosing to introduce the new service here, Geheran said the company had to consider whether such an expansion was financially feasible, also looking at the capability of its current infrastructure.
Stettler will be the 11th community in Alberta to have Telus’s new service introduced here, following Hinton, Edson, Vegreville, Wainwright, Wetaskiwin, Ponoka, Bonnyville, Slave Lake, St. Paul, Innisfail, Blackfalds and Didsbury.
Of those towns, only Didsbury, St. Paul and Vegreville have a smaller population than Stettler. Telus has also made the service available in communities in British Columbia.
The introduction of fibre optic service here puts Stettler in the top 4 per cent of connected communities in North America, Geheran said.
He added the service would be available to about 2,500 residences and 500 businesses — about 90 per cent of the local population — through Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) connections that link the home or business directly to the network through optical fibre.
He explained that because of the expense associated with expanding the network, for the foreseeable future it will be limited to communities the size of Stettler or larger.
“There’s a huge demand for this type of investment,” he said, adding that currently, the demand surpasses the available capital for such expansions.
Smaller communities, he added, “tend to be pretty unattractive from an economic standpoint.”
Beginning in July, the service will gradually be made available to different sections of Stettler. It is expected that most of the town’s neighbourhoods will be connected by December.
Geheran said the improved speed will benefit all users, ranging from home users playing online games to small businesses using the network to upload data.
Eventually, Geheran said, Telus may be able to expand the speed available to up to one Gigabit per second, once the market support exists for such a service.
The fibre optic cables that make the service possible will be installed by Telus crews beginning over the next few weeks.
Geheran explained that these will supplement, rather than replace, the company’s legacy copper wire network, so those who wish to maintain their existing Internet or home phone service won’t be required to upgrade.
If all goes according to plan, he explained, there should be no service interruptions as the infrastructure is put into place.
The service was also announced via a letter sent to local residents last week by Telus, co-signed by Mayor Richards and Fred Weinheimer, the company’s general manager for customer solutions delivery in southern Alberta.
Greg Switenky, assistant chief administrative officer for the Town of Stettler, said the town has been in discussions with Telus for about six months, but could not disclose that publicly until now as part of their agreement.
“We’re thrilled with their announcement,” he said. “That’s a pretty awesome selling point for our community.”
Switenky said the town had long struggled with the quality of Internet serviceavailable here, and had set a goal of seeking to improve that service during a strategy setting session between council and senior administrators held in January in 2014.
Following that, he said, the town worked to engage major service providers, including Telus and Shaw, speaking on behalf of residents and businesses.
“We’ve carried a voice on behalf of our citizens and our businesses, saying, ‘We deserve better than what we’ve had’,” said Switenky.
Telus responded to the town’s efforts, and in turn, Switenky said, the town helped to expedite the process of approval for the new infrastructure that is required for fibre optic service.
He noted that the investment being made comes strictly from the private sector, and that the town’s role is strictly co-operative.
For more information, including a map showing the projected date of availability for Stettler neighbourhoods, visit www.telus.com/stettler or call 1-855-595-5588.