Alberta Science and Innovation has brokered a deal that will put the Alberta SuperNet project back on track after a dispute between two contractors created problems.
Bell West, the prime contractor on the project to link 427 communities with high-speed broadband access, will be responsible for the construction of the entire network.
Axia NetMedia, the Calgary-based company that was to have constructed the rural portion of the network at a cost of $10 million, has agreed to drop its rights to continue with its subcontract.
Both parties will enter into a dispute-resolution process under an independent arbitrator as ordered by Judge Del Perras in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench earlier this month. Claims for damages between Axia and Bell West will be determined by the arbitrator.
Axia will still have responsibility for network design and electronic provisioning; advisory support; supply of Cisco electronics; and the responsibility to complete the purchase of third-party network assets.
The government will determine Axia’s entitlement to payment and expenditures for costs already incurred (approximately $20 million) and will make payment directly to Axia.
Axia Networks will continue to manage the network under a separate 10-year contract.
Axia CEO Art Price refused to make further comment beyond what was contained in the company press release outlining terms of the agreement.
Under the agreement worked out by Alberta Science and Innovation, “Bell West has committed to finishing the SuperNet on time and on budget,” said Jeremy Fritsche, the department’s spokesperson. Completion date for the SuperNet is scheduled for mid-2004.
Bell West is updating the schedule for construction of the SuperNet. In some instances, this may mean that a community will get its connection sooner, while others may have to wait longer, said Fritsche.
Jaime McNaul, spokesperson for Bell West, said: “This is very good news for the people of Alberta. Bell can continue moving forward and fulfil its obligations to government to build the network by mid-2004.
“Bell has a very detailed and aggressive plan to accelerate the build. We’re moving forward to implement it.”
The province is investing $193 million over three years to build the SuperNet, which will eventually link 4,700 libraries, schools, hospitals and government offices. Bell West will invest a minimum of $102 million to build the base area linking Alberta’s 27 largest municipalities.