Internet access for rural residents in areas such as Ross Spur, Fruitvale, Genelle, Rossland and Salmo will be improved thanks to a $3.34 million funding announcement by the federal government on Wednesday.
The funding has been handed to the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) to provide high speed Internet to 11,000 households in the Kootenay region by 2017.
“Depending on the work required some areas may see something sooner,” Delphi Hoodicoff, the CBT’s director of communication, told the Trail Times on Thursday.
The goal is to provide download speeds of up to 10 megabits per second (Mbps) to households in rural areas across BC.
In its press release, the CBT said its subsidiary, Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, will be working with a dozen Internet service providers including China Creek Internet Services Ltd., Columbia Wireless Inc., and Peak Broadband Solutions.
For a full list of the service providers involved in the project visit cbt.org.
With James Moore, the federal Minister of Industry, in attendance, Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks made the announcement alongside local government representatives and Internet Service Providers (ISP) partners in Cranbrook.
“Today we live in an increasingly borderless world connected by the Internet,” said Wilks. “New technology has created tremendous opportunity for Canadians to communicate with each other and for businesses to compete globally.
“The Internet makes things cheaper and the world smaller.”
Currently, 94 per cent of Canadians have access to high-speed Internet, but the challenge becomes servicing the remaining six per cent in rural areas of the country, Wilks added.
“Canada is a digital nation and as businesses increasingly move online to do business, speeds of 1.5 mbps simply aren’t good enough anymore,” Wilks said.
“Modern websites are often designed for faster speeds and business increasingly need to transfer larger files and use cloud computing.”
The federal government considers the floor of high-speed Internet to be five mbps.
Moore noted that the funding is coming out of a $305 million commitment from the 2014 federal budget that aims to get high-speed Internet to 280,000 households by 2017.
That program has been a big success, Moore said.
“We’ve overshot our goal by 75,000 households and we’ve done so at 40 per cent under budget and the footprint of these 11,000 that we’re announcing today—we’re doubling the Internet speeds that we’ve had for the national goal,” Moore said.
The funding came out of a $5 billion revenue stream stemming from a wireless spectrum sale in 2014, he added.
Moore noted the importance of high speed Internet to nation building, and compared it to the construction of the railroad to bring British Columbia into Confederation.
“Among the things that we look at as we go forward for the next 150 years in Canada, when it comes to it keeping this country united, is not only infrastructure—the start of this country of course, bringing British Columbia into Confederation was a railway, then it was to build the highways, then was to build the ports and airports.
The next step of infrastructure, in terms of that contribution to nation building and keeping us united, really is digital infrastructure. It really is what’s next,” Moore said.
“…This is what nation-building looks like and it happens bit by bit across the country, drawing people together, connecting us all together for all the opportunities of the future.”
Kathryn Teneese, chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, opened the ceremony by highlighting the importance of digital technology and tying into a theme of reconciliation.
“I just wanted to say that the issue that we’re here to talk about today is something that began with the Ktunaxa Nation way back in 2002. We began with the concept of using the internet as a tool to help rejuvenate the critically endangered Ktunaxa language through online training and the possibility of audio and visual transmission into our communities,” she said.
“Some 13 years later, we continue to have many challenges and still unserved communities, largely in part due the high cost of infrastructure, development and remote mountainous areas and the small return on investment to deliver services.”
With files from the Trail Times and Cranbrook Daily Townsman