SaskTel announced last week that it will be expanding its fibre optic broadband service in rural Saskatchewan.

SaskTel is investing another $50 million in its Rural Fibre Initiative, which will expand its fibre optic broadband service to another 24 more rural Saskatchewan communities by the end of 2023.

The Rural Fibre Initiative which was announced in December is a multi-phase approach that will bring SaskTel infiNET service to over 40 rural Saskatchewan communities by the end of 2023.

The Chair of the APAS Rural Connectivity Task Force, Jeremy Welter, says he's pleased to see SaskTel increasing their commitment and addressing the issues around poor internet and cellphone coverage.

"A lot of the usage that's happening on infrastructure  would and should be better served for rural residents in some of the wireless spectrums not just on cell towers. But on the ability for producers and rural residents to connect to internet through different ways. A lot of that capacity is currently being used by people in towns which, you know, would be far better served having solid fibre connections."

The first three phases of SaskTels Rural Fibre Initiative have been finalized with the following communities mapped out for upgrades....

Phase 1 - Balgonie, Biggar, Langham and Pilot Butte. Construction has begun in all four communities, and SaskTel anticipates that the majority of homes and businesses will be fibre ready by the end of March 2022.

Phase 2 - Kindersley, Meadow Lake, and Rosetown. Construction will begin in all three communities later this year.

Phase 3 - Canora, Carlyle, Esterhazy, Fort Qu’Appelle, Hudson Bay, Indian Head, Kamsack, La Ronge, Lumsden, Maple Creek, Moosomin, Shaunavon, Watrous, and Wynyard. SaskTel plans to begin construction in these communities in 2022.

Phase 4 - SaskTel will spend $50 million to bring fibre to 24 additional communities. A formal announcement will be made when the remaining communities to be included in this phase are finalized.

Welter notes the second half of SaskTel's announcement last week was the fact that they recognize that SaskTel can't, and shouldn't be, the be all and end all.

"So they're they're looking to do a pilot program and determine if there are any other internet service providers that can continue to expand the rural fiber network beyond where SaskTel plans to do it."

He notes the steps announced by SaskTel fall in line with the recommendations from APAS in the Rural Connectivity Task Force Report which was released in March 2021.