Broadband project coming to southwest Alberta

Nathan Neudorf had five key objectives for Lethbridge when he was elected and the MLA for Lethbridge East has accomplished the last on the list with announced funding for a broadband project here.

The $6.9 million Lethbridge Broadband Fibre Project was announced Aug. 18 in the city by Neudorf and provincial Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda, the Conservative MLA for Calgary-Edgemont.

Funding for the project, which is expected to create an estimated 39 jobs, comes from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), a federal initiative which has allocated $3.66 billion to Alberta for investment in infrastructure projects.

The broadband initiative will serve local businesses as well as students, Neudorf said.

Other priorities for Neudorf included the expansion of the Lethbridge Exhibition, twinning of Highway 3, deferred maintenance at the University of Lethbridge and an investment in the Lethbridge airport.

Neudorf said after a press conference that “$6.9 million for Lethbridge on broadband really helps our businesses in the industrial park, making sure they have access. That’s a pretty big ask and it’s a portion. We have about $15 million worth of work to do but $6.9 million from the province is a big step in the right direction.

“The broadband helps everybody –  students working from home can access it but really the economic interest, apart from education, is the small businesses being able to hook into it. You need the infrastructure to carry all those users,” Neudorf said.

“When I first was elected, the City of Lethbridge and Economic Development had five key objectives so this was on the list from the very beginning so I’m really pleased we’ve checked five for five in the first two years.

Neudorf said funding for the local airport was another positive.

“I was really thrilled because technically airports are federal so for the province to be able to contribute over $11 million out of $18 million for lengthening the runway, lighting on the runway and the terminal increase, that was pretty significant that we were able to partner with that,” said Neudorf.

Planning is underway behind the scenes, Neudorf said, “to improve public infrastructure and that includes right here in Lethbridge.

“Infrastructure projects underway here in Lethbridge are a critical component to Alberta’s recovery plan,” he said.

That provincial plan will create thousands of jobs in communities across the province.

“In the short term, this includes jobs in design, engineering and construction. . . It also includes jobs that ripple out across the construction worksite to benefit Alberta manufacturers, suppliers, trucking companies, it supports jobs and economic activity in our local coffee shops, grocery stores, gas stations and Alberta businesses that see increased traffic from the work underway,” Neudorf said.

“Dependable Internet is essential. We all realize the importance –  students are trying to learn from home, their parents are trying to work from home so high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury. It’s essential infrastructure,” Panda said.

“We are so pleased that Lethbridge is getting back a little of all that money we send to Ottawa every year, Panda said to media.

Panda told The Herald after the conference that the provincial government is also interested in public/private partnerships to help fund projects in the province.

“Government can’t find every project so we are focusing on irrigation, transportation infrastructure, schools and hospital projects, post-secondary and then capital maintenance and renewal,” said Panda.

“All these government buildings, if we don’t have upkeep, the replacement cost is too high but the most important thing during the pandemic is all those skilled trades we don’t want them to leave the province so we’re trying to keep them busy. No amount of money is enough to satisfy all stakeholders so that’s why we’re looking at alternate financing outside of the budgeting process to use public/private partnerships. If there’s a project that the local community feels really strongly about, they can find a financing partner and we can evaluate those projects and get to the finish line,” said Panda.

Neudorf said all five local priorities complement each other.

“Those things working together they all complement each other. Just building one of them is good but being able to contribute to all of those including investments at the college and university, they all work together. The college is going to have a culinary program that’s going to help support the exhibition, students coming to and from Lethbridge will use the airport, truckers that transport things will use the Highway 3 corridor and then all those businesses as well as our schools are going to use broadband so you can see how they connect and support each other.”

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