More high-speed Internet for High Prairie

One of two sector antennas for high-speed Internet in High Prairie was installed Oct. 6 by Blu Wave Media of Edmonton. Left-right are, project manager Sone Ho, owner Sami Sharkawi, and supervisor Justin Sawchyn. Sharkawi and Sawchyn both have roots in the High Prairie area.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

High Prairie is getting another option for high-speed Internet from a new company in Edmonton owned by a man with roots in the local region.

Blu Wave Media installed two sector antennas Oct. 6 on a tower at the new office for Heart River Housing on 48 Street at the corner of 54 Avenue.

“In this current coronavirus pandemic, being connected remotely and online is essential for communication,” says Sami Sharkawi, owner of the business that incorporated in July 2020.

“Yet, there are many people that do not have this service available to them.”

The High Prairie region is his first priority.

“The end goal [is] to have every home and business in High Prairie be fibre-connected and getting Internet speeds and services comparable to the major cities in Alberta,” Sharkawi says.

He says the aim of his business is to provide high-speed Internet to rural communities that do not have access to those services.

“We are starting with Internet services with plans to also provide telephone, and television services,” says Sharkawi, who is talking with other rural municipalities about options.

He wants to launch his vision at home.

“We decided to start in High Prairie because I was born and raised there and wanted to give back to the community I grew up in,” Sharkawi says.

“Our target date to provide Internet service is around the end of October to mid-November 2020.”

The wider region is also in the picture.

“Big Lakes County and Indigenous communities in the region are 100 per cent part of our vision to expand,” Sharkawi says.

Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk is excited that another company is committed to help out the town and other rural areas get better access to high-speed Internet.

“High Prairie council is in favour of improving Internet connectivity as it is one of the highest priorities in our strategic plan,” Panasiuk says.

The Town has been working with Big Lakes County to build a municipally-owned network for about five years.

“Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons, the municipally-owned project is not going ahead at this time,” Panasuik said at its council meeting July 28.

Sharkawi wants to work with the High Prairie council to enhance service.

“We will have discussions with the Town to see what their vision is for high-speed Internet in High Prairie and see if we could go down a parallel path,” Sharkawi says.

“For example, in other towns and cities there are free wi-fi hotspots located in certain areas or buildings.

“We could work with the Town to provide these wi-fi hotspots.”

And, service needs an upgrade.

“Market research tells us that service from all the current providers is slow, unreliable and expensive,” Sharkawi says.

“We want to change that.”

As another way to give back to his former hometown community, he plans to hire and train people from the High Prairie area to work for the company.

A sector antenna for high-speed Internet in High Prairie is set on a tower at the new office for Heart River Housing.

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