SuperNet partners make peace

Alberta’s ambitious SuperNet project is still a go, despite an ongoing commercial dispute between partners Axia NetMedia Corp. and Bell West.

The $295 million project, tapped to be completed in 2004, ground to a halt earlier this year when the two companies became engaged in a bitter and public battle over responsibilities and contractual obligations. Alberta SuperNet is a provincial government-sponsored initiative that will see the province of Alberta linked by a fibre optic network reaching 422 communities.

On Wednesday Axia NetMedia said that in consultation with Alberta’s Department of Innovation and Science, an agreement has been struck between the two organizations, enabling the project to continue. The agreement involves a reorganization of responsibilities and duties related to the construction of the Alberta SuperNet.

In a press conference, Axia’s CEO Art Price said Axia will continue to provide a number of construction-related services for the project, including the responsibility for network design and electronic provisioning, the supply of Cisco electronics, advisory support and the responsibility to complete major transactions for the purchase of third-party network assets.

The agreement will have the Calgary-based company terminate the existing cost, plus fixed fee construction sub-contract with Bell West. Construction contracts between Axia and other parties will now be assigned to Bell West and assets that Axia has acquired for deployment in the extended network will also be assigned to Bell West. Further, the Alberta government will determine Axia’s entitlement to payment for costs and expenditures incurred but not yet paid under the sub-contract with Bell West and will make the payment once this amount is determined. Spokespeople for Bell West did not return calls at press time. Cisco Systems of Canada, which is also involved, declined to comment.

According to Price, up to 15 positions could be absorbed through the arbitration process.

“”We have a team of talented people who have been doing this work, and with a portion being assigned to Bell, this means there will be . . . people no longer required for this purpose. This was a stellar, high-performing team caught in the dispute that this resolves,”” he said.

Mark Quigley, an Ottawa-based analyst with The Yankee Group, said that the agreement is good news for both parties involved.

“”For Bell West [a division of Bell Canada] it is important to complete this project on time and under budget in order to establish a presence in Wes

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