Broadband internet inches toward realization

Rossland could become a West Kootenay pioneer if a move to bring broadband, high speed internet to the Golden City is successful in Sept.

Rossland could become a West Kootenay pioneer if a move to bring broadband, high speed internet to the Golden City is successful in September.

With communities of all sizes across the West Kootenay considering laying their cards on the table for broadband, high speed internet infrastructure, Rossland has already approved in principle the introduction of the service to the city.

City council will be weighing its options to pull the trigger and approve the project in conjunction with the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC) in fall, after some or all of the nearly $185,000 in start-up funding is accounted for through grants.

Councillor Jody Blomme, who is a member of the committee trying to bring broadband to the city, said gaining any grant money toward the project would be vital in the decision, since it will ease the burden on the municipal budget.

“You really have to get the community buy in to justify where the property taxes have to go,” she said about sustaining and maintaining the service.

“But a lot of people recognize the value of this and the sustainability of the project.

It is absolutely something that could pay for itself over time, and the indirect economic benefits are huge. I think that, in the long run, we will do well by it.”

A meeting at the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) office in Castlegar on Friday, July 19 urged interested West Kootenay communities to “sell” the idea to their respective communities.

Blomme said there needs to be a vision constructed for the community that looks at the service 10 to 15 years down the road. As well, the CBBC is putting together a model on how the service would work for Rossland, who would maintain it and how it would be legislated.

On Monday, July 15 council approved the broadband committee putting in a grant application on behalf of the city with Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust (SIDIT).

The committee will also be applying for a Western Development Economic Diversification grant, as well as the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition (SIBAC).

A task force was struck last year to investigate in detail the benefits and risks of establishing an open access network.

The CBBC network will be an open access network mandated to meet the needs of Basin businesses. The network will offer increasing numbers of business applications and services based on local demand and supply.

Benefits of the Rossland Broadband project would include about 20 times faster than current download speeds achievable in Rossland, and about 100 times faster than current upload speeds.

It will also allow better, more reliable connectivity to transfer data files and to use with POS systems and other communications such as internet telephone, video conferencing and webinars.

In the current phase of the project being considered, City Hall, municipal buildings, and Rossland’s downtown core (Columbia Avenue between St. Paul and Spokane, and Washington Street adjacent to Sourdough Alley) would be connected to the network. All businesses and residences within this build-out plan would be offered the opportunity to access the network.

For more information visit the Rossland Broadband website

Looking regionally

Efforts to improve access to high speed internet isn’t the purview of Rossland alone.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary is also in the running to improve internet speed in its rural communities.

RDKB chair Larry Gray said a Broadband Forum in Cranbrook late last month examined some of the issues and possible solutions to the provision of broadband to rural areas in the Kootenays and Boundary.

The outcome of the meeting was to endorse a commitment from all participants to request support from the province in rural broadband, Gray noted in a report to RDKB board members.

“This need not be in terms of financial support but could mean some streamlining of regulations,” he said in his report.

The possibility for provincial grants was also a consideration and was supported by the Network BC representatives. Gray said new Build Canada and Gas Tax program funds now could be used for broadband infrastructure.

Currently, the three Kootenay regional districts are working in cooperation with the province, ISP’s (internet service providers) and CBBC to attempt to build better high speed internet service for rural areas.

CBBC is re-examining its proposals for fibre connections and service in the West Kootenay as its initial plan proved far too costly for smaller towns where the capital costs amounted to about $180,000, and annual support at about $40,000, even with CBBC bringing the fibre to the communities.

Gray said the CBBC will look at the issue again to see how it could work with ISP’s to supply high speed wireless service at a cheaper cost and wider range, using a feed from the existing fibre put in place by CMON.

“One option might be to run cable to a central spot in a community and then use the wireless technology from an independent ISP to transmit wireless, or to work in conjunction with a municipality and an ISP to do this,” he said.

Gray said all the ideas are in the very formative stages, as is the idea for a combined three regional district approach to meeting with the province at Union of B.C. Municipalities convention later this year.


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