The Alberta provincial government announced an initiative this week to ensure “reliable, high-speed Internet” is available to at least 98 per cent of people living in the province. Through the program, called the Final Mile Rural Connectivity Initiative, the province will work with municipalities and industry to provide access to high-speed Internet in unserviced areas of rural Alberta. About six per cent, or 72,000 households in rural Alberta, are now without access to high-speed Internet service, the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said in a statement on its website Tuesday. The initiative includes a $5-million program that invites local governments to apply for provincial funding to support or expedite their plans to provide connectivity. “High-speed Internet infrastructure costs such as towers, equipment and technology, fibre optic cable, wireless equipment, installation costs and radio license fees are eligible to receive Final Mile Rural Community Program funding,” the department said, noting that up to 75 per cent of eligible project costs may be covered by the program. Applicants must submit program applications on or before March 31, 2012. “The province will work with municipalities looking for other options by working with Internet providers to provide connectivity to rural households through the most effective and efficient technologies available (i.e. wireless, mobile sticks, satellite, leveraging off the Alberta SuperNet); and, developing an 'in-fill' program to provide connectivity to Albertans in served areas who are still without access due to geographical challenges,” the department said.