The Town of Vermilion is getting ready to launch their own internet service with a six-month pilot project.

The V-net Internet Service will be available to businesses along Highway 41 to Highway 16 as well as 47 Avenue. The town is looking to have 10 businesses sign up in the initial startup phase of the service. Community Economic Development Officer Mary Lee Prior says they won’t turn down a business if there are more than 10 interested in taking part.

She says companies looking to buy land in their industrial areas are also looking at internet speeds as a major factor in their decision.

“Broadband services in rural Alberta are low compared to what you would receive in a city. Our businesses might be in rural Alberta or in a small town, but a lot of them deal nationally or internationally depending on what they’re doing. They are telling us the services are not great and that’s why we are getting into this.”

Businesses signing up for the pilot will have a router supplied to them and will get the first month of service free. Following that, they will then have to pay $150 a month or 19.95$ a month for individual device connections.

“Pretty much anything you touch these days requires a good broadband bandwidth. Right now we’re looking at a one gigabyte backhaul and that’s what we’re testing. We’ll see what we get out of that before we move forward.”

The internet speed will be dependent on the availability of the backhaul and the town will be monitoring speeds over the next six months to ensure they are adequate. After some time, the town will consider opening up the service to residents as well as offering some free options.

Town councillor Robert Pulyk says the pandemic has shown there is a need for a good internet connection in order to run a business these days.

“The need now is for adequate download speed and upload speed. If you’re participating in a conference via the internet, you need good upload speeds to participate or upload videos for people to view. It’s really timely that we are doing this project because we are looking at a unique feature to provide our residents with reliable internet speeds.”

The idea for the service goes back two years after the Vermilion River Regional Alliance put together a feasibility study for bringing broadband to the area. The town also performed a test run of the technology at last year’s Vermilion Fair and Pulyk says they received a lot of positive feedback.

“It was good. We had people to a point to sale in the arena area. They were able to pick up the signal and it gave us a chance to test it on a small scale which led us to now where we installed five units in the south part of our community.”

The town aims to wrap up the project by the end of the year at which point council will look into their options for the project. Businesses in the pilot project area that are interested in participating can contact Prior at 780-581-2419.