BY BILL PHILLIPS
Just as rail opened up the frontier 150 years ago, fibre optic is opening up rural areas of the country today.
“It’s a foundational piece,” said Jinny Sims, minister of citizen services, in an interview with the Daily News. “High-speed internet is no longer a luxury. It’s not about Netflix, it’s not about Facetime. It’s an economic engine for growth.”
She said she was “thrilled” to announce, earlier this week, more than $38 million in federal, provincial and partner funding for five major connectivity projects in rural and First Nations and Indigenous communities.
The projects include:
- $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.
High-speed plays a huge role in helping economic development occur in rural areas. It’s often taken for granted in larger centres where high-speed internet is ubiquitous, but in rural areas its often a hindrance as more and more services move online.
Sims said when the NDP came to power last year the government’s goal was have 1.5 megabits of download of speed into rural communities, which basically allows for text and email. The new goal is 50 megabits per second and up to a gigabyte.
“What we’re looking at is a much higher level,” she said. “We’re matching the federal level. We’re making a concerted effort to link communities to fibre-optic.”
There is still a lot of work to be done, she said, adding its crucial for rural communities to be connected to the digital economy.
In total, with federal and provincial funding, these five projects will receive $38,265,697 as local partners contribute an additional $7,151,757. That means that 33 communities in British Columbia, including 13 Indigenous communities, will benefit from this partnership.