Nov 6, 2013 Comments Off
The Department of Telephones was created in 1908, not long after Saskatchewan became a province. At that time, the population of Saskatchewan was largely concentrated in rural areas. The provincial government saw the value of the telephone as a way of connecting such a diffuse population but also recognized that Saskatchewan’s geographic realities would never attract private companies to develop telephone infrastructure. The investment necessary to provide telephone services to rural areas would never be borne by private telephone companies because it was simply not profitable. Accordingly, the province created a provincially owned telephone infrastructure in order to deliver telephone services to all areas of the province.
Since then, the Department of Telephones was reorganized as a Crown Corporation which is now called SaskTel. SaskTel has continued to build and improve Saskatchewan’s telecommunications networks and has developed significant expertise in overcoming geographical challenges when delivering telecommunications services. While SaskTel is now a corporation whose aim is to be profitable and not just to deliver service, the Crown Corporation remains committed to ensuring that Saskatchewan people have access to communication services. On November 4, SaskTel has announced a partnership to bring 4G cellular service to several remote communities in northern Saskatchewan. “The project is being done under SaskTel’s community participation model, which allows communities to cover the shortfall when it is not economically feasible for SaskTel to finance a new cellular site alone.”
What is interesting about the development of telecommunications in Saskatchewan is that telecommunications services have been seen as an essential utility that should be available to all residents. From very early on, the Saskatchewan government was determined to provide this infrastructure when private companies would not. Saskatchewan enjoys almost 100% high speed internet coverage and 98% cellular coverage. This is significantly higher than the Canadian average of 72.2% coverage. Today, access to telecommunications services, high speed internet in particular, is truly an essential component necessary to engage with society. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has stated that “The ability for all to access and contribute information, ideas and knowledge is essential in an inclusive Information Society.” Around the world, access to telecommunications infrastructure is beginning to be thought of as a right, rather than a privilege.
See the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan for more information on the development of telecommunications in Saskatchewan: http://esask.uregina.ca/entry/telecommunications.html