Nakusp Mayor Tom Zeleznik says better access to high-speed service will be an economic boon to his village. Photo: John Boivin

Slocan Valley to be ‘lit up’ with high-speed internet in 12 months

125 kilometres of fibre-optic cable to be laid from Nakusp to Playmor Junction

Most residents of the Slocan Valley are going to have high-speed internet service within the year, because of a new initiative by the provincial government.

The Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation plans to lay 125 kilometres of fibre-optic cable from north of Nakusp to the Playmor Junction, bringing fast internet service to more than 20 communities and the rural areas between.

It’s one of two areas in the Kootenays to be early recipients of a $50 million initiative announced Friday by Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims.

“In today’s digital age, the internet is part of the foundation for growing good-paying jobs, learning, health care and keeping in touch,” Sims said at a news conference in Castlegar. “Our government is committed to a future where everyone in B.C. has access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet.”

Columbia Basin Trust CEO Johnny Strilaeff opened the press conference in Castlegar with a reminder of the not-too-distant past— the sound of a circa-1990s modem ring.

“I see some younger faces, likely that’s not something you’ve had to experience,” said Strilaeff.

While the modem may be gone, slow and intermittent internet access remains a problem for thousands of people living up the valley, he said.

“Residents have told us that increasing high-speed internet connectivity throughout the region is important to them,” said Strilaeff. “Our partnership with the Province and local governments will expand affordable broadband availability in the Slocan Valley and South Country area.”

“The Kootenays are a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family,” added Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West . “Bringing high-speed internet to our rural communities ensures people in the region can enjoy the benefits of a rural lifestyle without sacrificing access to modern services.

“These projects will improve the quality of life for many residents living in more remote locations.”

‘Moving about as fast as they can’

The Columbia Basin Trust’s broadband service arm, the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, will receive $4.8 million in provincial funds for the two projects (the South Country project is in the East Kootenay).

Dave Lampron, the chief operating officer of the CBBC, says they’ll now begin working with communities to move planning forward from the conceptual stage.

“We’re planning on using virtually ever method conceivable to deploy the fibre,” he said. “We’re going to be putting it up on poles, using waterways where we can, and trenching fibre in Crown land corridors — keeping the environmental and archaeological concerns in the forefront.”

Lampron says the roll-out will be linear — moving from one end of the Slocan valley to the other — though they haven’t decided which end they’ll start from. However, once begun, it won’t take long to complete.

“They’ll be moving about as fast as they can lay the fibre out,” he said. “The province would like to see a March 31, 2020 completion date. It’s an aggressive timeline, but we’re going to do everything we can to meet those timelines.”

The Slocan Valley project is estimated to cost $7.2 million in total. The rest of the money for the project will be coming from the Trust, municipal and regional governments.

Lampron says the CBBC will work with existing local service providers to help them augment their service to the west side of the Slocan Valley and small communities like Vallican.

Local politicians praised the province for the initiative, saying they’ve been hearing complaints for years about the poor internet service up the valley.

Nakusp Mayor Tom Zeleznik welcomed the announcement, saying it will support economic development in his village.

“The nice thing is, a recent study said 13 per cent of our workforce in Nakusp works out of their home. That’s nearly double the national average,” he said. “So this is a great opportunity to make our community a more attractive place for people to come and earn a living.”

Not only will the installation of fibre-optic line bring faster and more reliable internet service to the valley, officials say it will also lower the barrier for cellular service providers to enter the area. Most of the Slocan Valley has no cell phone service.

The second project being managed by the CBBC, called the South Country project, will see more than 50 kilometres of fibre-optic infrastructure installed between Jaffray and Roosville. It’s expected to cost $2.9 million.

The province says since July 2017, its Connecting British Columbia project has brought high-speed internet access to 443 communities – including 75 Indigenous communities.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Columbia Basin Trust CEO Johnny Strilaeff plays the sound of a modem to the audience at the start of the news conference. Photo: John Boivin

Just Posted

RDCK rescinds evacuation alert for properties near Talbott Creek fire

Cooler and wetter condition are expected to help crews fight fire in coming days

School District 20 reports COVID case in Rossland school

A case of COVID-19 was reported at Rossland Summit School on Monday

Grand Forks demonstrators call for sustainable logging across the Boundary

Protest was one of many across British Columbia Friday, Sept.17

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Trail RCMP report theft, impaired charges

Checkpoints were set up in Trail and the Greater Area on Sept. 11 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

First full day of B.C.’s election campaign begins amid COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and the Green party’s Sonia Furstenau criticized John Horgan’s decision

RCMP issue two $2,300 COVID fines at same Metro Vancouver vacation rental within 24 hours

Cpl. Mike Kalanj said it was ‘quite frankly appalling’ to see parties breaking COVID-19 rules

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Here’s how voting amid a pandemic will happen in B.C.

Elections BC has worked with the provincial health office to determine safety protocols for voting

B.C. privacy commissioner will hear First Nations complaints about COVID

The hearing will rely on written submissions from the Indigenous governments as well as the Ministry of Health

Majority of Canadians support wearing masks during COVID-19, oppose protests: poll

Nearly 90 per cent felt wearing a mask was a civic duty because it protects others from COVID-19

Most Read