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How Open-access Networks Empower Communities

In the 1990s, Sweden conducted an experiment that some say transformed its entire economy. The government launched a program that aimed to put a computer in every home, and then built a high-speed network that delivered connectivity to every part of the country. They did it using an open-access model, which separates ownership of the physical network from the delivery of services. 

Today, Sweden is considered a leader in tech. It has become home to innovations like Skype and Spotify, gaming developer Mojang AB (creator of Minecraft), fintech firm Klarna, and lithium-ion battery developer Northvolt. In fact, the country has more “tech unicorns” — tech startups valued at a billion dollars or more — per capita than any world region outside Silicon Valley. In Stockholm, there are more than 3,000 start-ups and scale-ups, and 101,000 tech employees.

Many of its business leaders credit the early and widespread access to advanced technology for the nation’s track record as innovators. And studies over the years in various countries have demonstrated that internet access and, now, broadband speed, help drive innovation in communities. 

Overcoming the Digital Divide

In Canada, it’s become more and more obvious that universal access to high-speed connectivity is necessary for communities to thrive. Where we stand now is far from universal, however, as only <stats from first blog>.

Open-access fiber networks are a viable way to bring last-mile high-speed connectivity to communities across the country — even the hard-to-reach ones. Their layered business model helps open up the market for a host of service providers and allows counties and municipalities to “own” their network, removing them from the whims of major telecom corporations, who maynot continue investment in a network if the returns aren’t attractive enough. 

For these communities, high-speed connectivity can open up a world of opportunities. Technology has become the backbone of almost every industry — It’s essential to the way we live, work, and play. A lack of connection hampers economic growth, limits the services people can access, and can even affect health and wellbeing, as families struggle to remain connected.Canada’s current patchwork of substandard rural networks has been called into the spotlight thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, when businesses and essential services turned to online channels. The digital inequity across the country became more pronounced than ever, highlighting disparities between (and at times, within) urban, rural, and Indigenous communities. 

Connecting Communities

While our current approach to broadband connectivity doesn’t serve Canadians equally, there are increased calls for open-access network implementation. And several municipalities and local governments are taking matters into their own hands, choosing to build networks using an open-access model. Rural CONNECT, in Alberta, will bring Red Deer County, Paintearth County, and the municipality of Delburne together to build a network to serve their region with a future-proof fiber network. 

As the vendor responsible for building the network infrastructure and fulfilling the maintenance contract, Valo is part of this open-access project. Since our inception we’ve been advocating for universal access for rural communities, aiming to deliver well above the 50/10 goal the government of Canada has set out as a minimum. Like the xxx in charge of the Rural Connect project, we understand that internet access will help these communities build strong economies, attract new residents, and keep current residents connected to the rest of the world in increasingly vital ways.

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