The Tobacco Plains Indian Band is one of several communities in the Kootenay region that will be receiving a high-speed internet upgrade. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Rural Kootenay communities to receive high-speed internet upgrade

The provincial government is increasing internet connectivity to rural British Columbia

Rural communties in the Kootenay region will soon be more connected than ever before.

The Government of British Columbia announced the launch of a multi-million dollar high speed internet project in the South Country and in the Slocan Valley on Friday morning, which will benefit 26 communities.

“We as a province can no longer sit by as our neighbours in rural and indigenous communities remain unconnected,” said Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizen’s Services in Castlegar this morning.

“No matter where you live in B.C., we want you on a level playing field for internet access.”

The Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC) will install fibre-optic infrastructure for the two new projects announced today in the Slocan Valley and to just outside Nakusp, and the South Country near Jaffray. The South Country project involves more than 50 kilometres of fibre-optic infrastructure installed between Jaffray and Roosville at an estimated total cost of $2.9 million. The Slocan Valley project involves 125 kilometres of fibre-optic infrastructure to service the region between Shoreholme, just north of Nakusp, and the Playmor Junction, at an estimated total cost of $7.2 million.

The South Country and Slocan Valley project is a collaboration between the Ministry, Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional Districts of the West and East Kootenay, as well as the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC). They are a wholly owned subsidiary of Columbia Basin Trust, and will be receiving $4.8 million in provincial funds for the two new projects in the Slocan Valley and South Country to improve broadband access.

The project is also part of a $50M dollar investment in connectivity, announced by the government earlier this year, which touts it as the largest ever provincial commitment to connectivity.

“As Premier Horgan would say, what are doing for communities outside of the lower mainland?” said Sims.

“We know that there is not going to be economic reconciliation, reducing the economic gap between the rural and the urban, and the educational gap, the healthcare gap; it’s just not going to happen unless we tackle the digital divide,” she added.

The total value of the Slocan Valley and the South Country projects is approximately $10.2 million and includes $4.4 million from CBBC, $420,000 from the Regional District of East Kootenay and $525,000 from the Regional District of Central Kootenay and communities in the Slocan Valley and Nakusp.

Connectivity is just as important as water, piping, and electricity, said Sims, bringing people opportunities to learn, connect and better expand their businesses.

“The two projects that we’ve announced today, I’m confident will be completed and be made available shortly,” said Johnny Strilaeff, president and CEO, Columbia Basin Trust

“Today is obviously about those two builds, for the Slocan Valley and the South Country, but it’s also a platform for future success,” he added.

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