The Alberta SuperNet experience
Approved in 2000, Alberta SuperNet is an initiative of the government of the province of Alberta, Canada, designed to provide high-speed, high-capacity broadband network linking government offices, schools, health-care facilities and libraries. Alberta SuperNet has approximately 4,200 connections in 429 communities. Bell and Axia SuperNet were awarded contracts by the Government of Alberta to build (Bell), and manage and operate Alberta SuperNet (Axia). The Government of Alberta invested CDN 193 million in the construction of Alberta SuperNet. Bell invested over USD 102 million in the network.
Bandwidth is available at standard, wholesale prices to commercial service providers. Telecommunications companies and Internet service providers can piggyback onto the Alberta SuperNet network, making it possible for service providers to offer high-speed services to areas that, until now, have been too expensive to reach. By purchasing SuperNet bandwidth, service providers can offer high-speed network services, including Internet, to businesses and residences. SuperNet is not competing in the downstream market for end-users and has an open access model.
The SuperNet network consists of approximately 13,000 kilometres of fibre optic and wireless connections. Fibre optic cable amounts to roughly 84 per cent of the network, while fixed wireless point-to-point links cover the remaining 16 per cent. Approximately 340 fixed wireless links are used in the SuperNet network. The typical range of broadband access links is 10 to 40 kilometres, at speeds of 6.5 and 26 Mbps.
Alberta SuperNet is designed to be self-sustaining. Revenue generated by SuperNet customers – including government offices, schools, health facilities, libraries and municipal government offices, as well as Internet service providers (ISPs) and application service providers (ASPs) – will be applied to the operation and maintenance of the network. In the Master Agreement for SuperNet, Bell is designated as the Provider of Last Resort (POLR) for high-speed Internet services in SuperNet communities. This means that Bell is responsible to ensure high speed service in a SuperNet community.