New government funding will help bring greater access to high-speed internet to rural communities.

High-speed internet coming to the north

New gov't funds for five new internet projects

  • Mar. 14, 2018 12:00 a.m.

The B.C. Government has announced their support for bringing a better level of internet service to the northern part of the province.

The Minister of Citizen’s Services, Jinny Sims, unveiled a plan whereby the government’s will work to to connect all British Columbians to high-speed Internet service thorough more than $38 million in federal, provincial and partner funding for five major connectivity projects in rural and First Nations and Indigenous communities.

“This is not just an investment in high-speed internet, it’s an investment in the future for those living in rural, First Nations and Indigenous communities, so they have access to cutting-edge emergency services, high-quality health care, world-class education and improved ability to participate in the growing digital economy,” said Sims.

“By working with our federal and local partners, we are leveraging relationships to give people in these communities the same internet access as those living in major urban centres.”

Sims went on to draw the comparison between the twenty first century’s need for high-speed connectivity to the need in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for efficient and reliable rail service.

“We used to need railways for economic prosperity, and that’s where we focused our efforts. Today, there’s a new economic reality and our economic health will depend on our digital footprint in the world.”

The province is contributing more than 11.3 million in key foundational funding for four major connectivity projects through the Connecting British Columbia program operated by the ministry.

Those funds will go toward providing more reliable high-speed connections to 32 communities throughout the province, including 12 Indigenous communities.

The provincial contribution includes:

* $1.9 million to CityWest Cable and Telephone Corp. for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako;

* $400,000 to Gwaii Communications for communities on Haida Gwaii;

* $1.9 million to Shaw Communications for fibre-optic cable along Highway 99 between Whistler and Cache Creek; and

* $7 million to Shaw Communications to build fibre-optic cable along Highway 97 between Prince George and Dawson Creek.

The announcement was made as part of an event hosted by Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, as the federal government formalized their commitment a further $19.75 million to these four projects, plus an additional fifth project with the Sts’ailes Band of the Upper Fraser Valley.

All the funds will be administered through the federal Connect to Innovate program.

“Access to high-speed internet is not a luxury, it’s essential,” said Bains.

“High-speed internet service is a basic tool that all Canadians should have access to, regardless of their postal code. Canadians need this service to do business, upgrade their education and build stronger communities. Thanks to our Connect to Innovate program, more Canadians will be able to participate fully in the digital economy.”

The federal and provincial funding will be augmented by an additional $7.15 million from local partners in the initiatives.

“As a company that was built in the North, we know first-hand the challenges that our customers face, which is why we invest heavily in many areas of the North to bring internet to under-served areas,” said Chris Marett, CEO of CityWest. “With this announcement, the governments of Canada and British Columbia have opened the door to allow even more residents and businesses in the North to access fast, reliable internet.”

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