Communities around the region are benefitting from access to new or improved high-speed Internet. (Submitted)

Over 12,000 rural households in Columbia Basin to access high-speed internet

The Columbia Basin Trust project has taken more than three years

It’s a milestone being felt around the Columbia Basin and Boundary regions: after more than three years of hard work, residents in over 12,000 rural households, in more than 62 communities in the region, will have access to new or improved high-speed Internet.

“Rural Columbia Basin and Boundary residents love their communities for many reasons, including their remoteness, but being able to rely on the Internet to connect with the larger world—and within our own region—has become essential,” said Johnny Strilaeff, Columbia Basin Trust president and chief executive officer. “The new high-speed service means residents in these areas can now access resources and enjoy opportunities that increase their quality of life.”

READ MORE: Columbia Basin Trust announces grant for technology upgrades

Columbia Basin Trust partnered with 14 Internet service providers to secure funding from the federal Connecting Canadians program, the provincial Connecting British Columbia Program and regional districts, in addition to Trust funding. From planning to implementation, the trust collaborated with a Regional Broadband Committee comprised of the regional districts of East Kootenay, Central Kootenay, Kootenay Boundary and Columbia Shuswap, and the Village of Valemount and the Ktunaxa Nation Council.

“Improving access to high-speed Internet in our rural communities was a key priority for the Regional Broadband Committee,” said Rob Gay, Regional Broadband Committee chair and Regional District of East Kootenay Electoral Area C director. “We’re excited to see the completion of this project and all the benefits that it brings to rural area citizens.”

The project’s $8-million budget allowed for improvements in two ways.

First, the ISPs were able to expand or improve their infrastructure, most of which is wireless.

Second, the Trust was able to expand or improve its existing fibre optic broadband network so that ISPs could better connect to it.

The new equipment now enables a download speed of at least five megabits per second to rural households with higher speeds available in most communities.

“It’s vitally important for smaller communities throughout B.C. to have reliable, high-speed access in order to grow local economies, create jobs, access education, health care, emergency services and connect with friends and family,” said Jinny Sims, minister of Citizens’ Services. “These significant accomplishments are the result of collaboration between many parties and serves as a model for other regions wanting to expand connectivity in B.C. Congratulations to everyone involved on this important achievement.”

In the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK), for example, Internet service to the Jaffray, Baynes Lake and Elko fire departments has greatly improved, with more bandwidth and more reliable connections.

“The radio systems between our fire halls, as well as our radio connection to dispatch in Kelowna, are all linked via Internet,” said Dave Boreen, Elk Valley and South Country Rural Fire & Rescue Service chief. “With such a large area to protect, the new high-speed Internet gives us better communications by enabling us to link through alternate repeaters, and to have a direct radio connection to dispatch. To have reliable Internet is critical to ensure that our radio communications stay operational.”

Gray Creek resident Michella Moss is a customer of the East Shore Internet Society, one of the ISPs involved in the project. As a professional voice actor, she works on projects ranging from movie trailers to video games—and can now send and receive files more quickly with the improved Internet speeds.

“I rely on my website to attract clients, to receive auditions from my agent, and to send mp3 and wav files to clients both regionally and internationally,” she said. “I feel very blessed to be able to live where I do. I’ve made a quiet studio space without the expense required in a noisy city environment and am able to make a living doing what I love without giving up my need to live remotely.”

The trust is committed to continue extending its network and supporting ISPs and communities as they strive to improve Internet service. Learn more about all the trust’s work in broadband—one of its strategic priorities—at ourtrust.org/broadband.

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