Broadband stalled by Fortis lock out

Broadband stalled by Fortis lock out

If broadband is on your Christmas Wish List this year, there is still a small chance that Santa will deliver.

  • Nov. 15, 2013 8:00 a.m.

By Yolanda Ridge, Rossland News

If broadband is on your Christmas Wish List this year, there is still a small chance that Santa will deliver.

According to city councilor Jody Blomme, the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC) has set a tentative timeline for delivery of the service to Rossland, with the goal of having broadband Internet up and running at City Hall by Dec. 31.

Under the terms of the plan, the south side of Columbia will be connected to the network first, with the hope of having the north side completed by spring. Building to the water treatment plant will not be completed until the summer of next year.

To meet these objectives, the CBBC will begin digging this month. There is only a minimal amount of groundwork required, but it will be a race to get it completed before Rossland is covered in snow and ice.

Broadband’s major obstacle is not the winter freeze, however. The most immediate barrier to meeting the timeline is the continuing labour dispute at Fortis BC. Although pole permits have been obtained, fibre cannot be installed as long as the job action continues.

“And once the work crews are mobilized,” said Blomme, “preparing poles for broadband is not likely to be a priority.”

With no option but to wait and see whether Santa can sort things out at Fortis, the CBBC is looking ahead; doing an inventory of schools and government buildings that are part of an existing network, in addition to surveying community services within the Columbia Basin with the view of forming partnerships to increase efficiency and feasibility.

In Nova Scotia, five municipalities came together to share broadband service, resulting in huge cost savings in a model that CBBC hopes to replicate.

Eventually, broadband is expected to generate revenue—which will be shared between the Internet service provider, CBBC, and the municipality—but for now, Rossland is still hoping for more funding in addition to the money already put up by the city and a $50,000 grant from Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust.

Blomme is also continuing discussion with the province, who indicated interest in supporting the city’s broadband initiative at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September.

“They may be able to connect fibre to the provincial buildings in town,” said Blomme, “which would help us increase the reach of our network sooner than anticipated.”

You may have to look closely to find fibre optic cable under the tree this year, but if the CBBC can deliver on it’s proposed timeline, 2014 will be the year of broadband for Rossland.