Many lessons were learned during the global pandemic, and one of them was how necessary reliable, fast internet was to stay connected to work, school and each another. For most people in urban centres, connectivity wasn’t an issue. There was reasonably fast connectivity to be had. However, for many parts of Saskatchewan, that simply was not the case. Quality internet access, despite its necessity in modern life, is still not available in rural and remote areas. If you have consistent, fast internet at work and home, consider yourself fortunate. For large swathes of the province, that type of access is still a dream. However, there is a company working hard to change that.
Flexing their muscle
FlexNetworks may not be a well-known name in Saskatchewan yet, but the ambitious telecom is changing that fast. First established in 2012, this dynamic venture is rapidly growing and emerging as a force in fibre optics. FlexNetworks takes pride in providing unparalleled connectivity solutions while reshaping the way businesses and communities interact with the digital world.
“We’re making significant investments in Saskatchewan’s telecommunications infrastructure,” says Gianni Creta, FlexNetworks’ president and CEO. “Our goal is bridging the digital divide, so that everyone has access to abundant, reliable internet wherever they are in the province.”
It’s a massive endeavour, but FlexNetworks is ready for the challenge.
Bridging the digital divide
While many telecoms focus solely on corporate or urban clients, FlexNetworks offers its services to both city residents and businesses and underserved rural communities. By providing high-speed internet access—in fact, they have the fastest residential internet service in Saskatchewan—the company empowers these areas, unlocking a world of opportunities for residents wherever they happen to live. In an era where digital literacy and online presence are often necessary for success, FlexNetworks’ efforts play a pivotal role in fostering inclusivity and equal access to the benefits of the online world.
“We are investing heavily into the province through the construction of broadband infrastructure, providing services to businesses and underserved communities which would not likely see options for broadband within the next five to 10 years, if at all,” says Jacques Taillefer, Executive Vice President at FlexNetworks. “This is creating jobs and economic growth in the province and giving new hope for small communities to help stem the hollowing out of rural Saskatchewan.
Bringing fibre to the people
FlexNetworks sees that internet access is not a luxury in today’s world. It’s a utility and should be treated as such. Plus, it’s about more than just having access to the internet. It’s about the quality and speed of connectivity, and what that can mean for people, communities and businesses.
“There is a significant gap between the access enjoyed in urban areas and what is found in rural and remote communities,” says Creta. Without good access, communities can be left behind in a world that becomes more digitally connected every day.
FlexNetworks has made impressive progress in Saskatchewan, investing $100 million and counting to bring high-speed internet to 106 underserved rural and remote areas. The company acquired Redbird Communications Inc. in 2021 and brought aboard one of Redbird’s founders, Robin Seaborn, as General Manager for residential services.
“Redbird was a wireless internet service provider in rural Saskatchewan, and we started working with FlexNetworks in 2016,” says Seaborn. “Together, we were providing services that others wouldn’t.” The two companies joined forces 18 months ago, and since then have been moving from strength to strength.
FlexNetworks’ vision is not merely to meet existing demands but to anticipate the future needs of businesses and residents alike. By enhancing choices and services, FlexNetworks is actively contributing to the digital transformation of communities, ensuring that they are well-equipped to thrive in the 21st century.
What truly sets FlexNetworks apart is its innovative approach to communication solutions. Instead of dealing with legacy infrastructure, the company has embraced cutting-edge technology by building entirely new 100 per cent fibre networks.
“Our fibre backbone offers the highest, scalable capacity possible,” says Seaborn. “Construction might be expensive—but it’s worth it. We have lots of room to grow, even as we bring communities online. This investment is rapidly advancing the timelines to get rural areas connected and the benefits are incredible—including 70 local jobs.”
Beyond the “fun” parts of good internet, like streaming the latest hit shows or checking out virtual reality gaming, FlexNetworks is also bringing access to prosperity and growth. Today’s economy requires the internet in some form or another, and without that access, rural businesses can struggle to compete.
“With reliable high-speed internet, companies can stay in rural areas,” says Seaborn. “We set up a client with high-speed internet connectivity in the early days of the pandemic, and just in time, too. If they hadn’t been able to access the internet with us, there is no way they could have conducted business with staff needing video conferencing and remote file sharing.” FlexNetworks provides organizations of all sizes with the connectivity they need to do business in a marketplace that is more reliant on technology than ever before.
Connectivity also means that rural and remote health care providers can work with professionals in urban centres, sharing vital information for patient care. “X-ray images are massive files that require powerful, fast connections. With fibre like ours, we can connect small communities with the health care they need, where they are,” says Seaborn. Schools and educators also benefit through faster connections that can bring the world and current technology to classrooms.
“Abundant thinking is vital. We’re breaking out of the “it’s good enough” mentality. Rural Saskatchewan, or any customer for that matter, should not be disadvantaged from the rest of the province,” says Taillefer.
The people factor
FlexNetworks also knows that its strength comes from more than just the services it provides. The people behind the service also set this growing telecom apart from its competitors. “It’s a big commitment to serve the people and communities we do,” says Melina Gillies, Chief People and Experience Officer at FlexNetworks. “We bring speed and connectivity to the communities we serve, while deeply understanding our customers.”
As FlexNetworks connects people and businesses to their services, they are also ensuring that their new customers are getting what they need now and in the future. That commitment is seen in the welcome kit to tenants in a newly built apartment, or walking customers through what will happen in the yard when their connection is placed in a small town. “Our customers’ needs come first, always. If there is a better way to serve them, we will find it,” says Gillies.
All in this together
FlexNetworks is also a committed partner to every community and organization it works with. “We differentiate ourselves by working together with our partners, whoever they are,” says Creta. “Our success comes from providing the services that work for people, and we can’t do that without working together.” Whether it’s a small town looking to improve their services or a First Nation needing connectivity for the first time, Creta says every relationship is about respect, understanding and collaboration.
At the same time, the company is also bringing its own competitive edge to partnership. “Our work is stimulating the competitive market and shifting old business models that focused more on larger urban population centres,” says Taillefer. “We’re engaging customers and communities where they are to benefit them.”
On the horizon
FlexNetworks is not merely a connectivity provider—it’s a catalyst for change. The company’s impact reverberates far beyond the realm of business transactions. By empowering businesses, enriching communities, and enhancing lives, FlexNetworks embodies the spirit of progress that Saskatchewan appreciates. In an age where connectivity is synonymous with opportunity, FlexNetworks is emerging as a driving force in telecommunications, shaping the province’s digital landscape and fostering a future where everyone is connected, empowered, and thriving.
Learn more about FlexNetworks at flexnetworks.ca.