The rollout of Alberta’s SuperNet broadband network is continuing on schedule, with three milestones being achieved recently. The access agreements between municipal governments and the network have been finalized; building is continuing; and testing has begun in one segment of the grid. Lisa Bowes, director of policy & regulatory initiatives for Alberta Innovation and Science, told delegates to the EXPO COMM Canada 2002 conference in Toronto earlier this month that the municipal access agreements have just been drawn up. A template document, respecting the needs of the communities and the provincial government, has been written. She could not provide solid numbers as to how many, if any, deals had been inked, but expects they should start flowing soon. A pricing scheme is evolving. Public sector clients have a range of five options to choose from. The least expensive plan features 10 Mbps, with 256 Kbps committed, for only $242.50 per month. A managed system of 100 Mbps, with 20 Mbps committed, costs $850 a month. Bowes boasted about the speed with which SuperNet could download a 25k Word file (see chart). Pricing for service providers has not yet been determined. Axia SuperNet Ltd., one of the project’s sub-contractors, will manage access to SuperNet’s POPs by commercial customers. The provincial government is insisting that rates be standard across Alberta and benchmarked against the rates for larger cities. SuperNet is divided into two sections: the base network and the extended network. The base network is located in 27 major communities across the province and its assets are owned by Bell West, the primary builder of the project. The extended network, owned by the government, covers 395 smaller centres that have limited services and competition. Bell will act as the ISP for communities in the extended area if no other entrant emerges. Bowes said the province is keeping the CRTC advised of the progress of the build. "Our moves fit well with their objectives," she stated. Most of the communication is done by Axia, which is registered with the commission as a non-dominant carrier. The government has capped its investment at $193 million, and Bell is budgeting $102 million for its share of the project. When completed, SuperNet will be a 12,000-km fibre and wireless high-speed network. Bowes said the network will serve both public- and private-sector concerns. It will also assist in eliminating disparity between urban and rural centres.