Wells is certainly a small community, definitely rural, and, depending on who to you talk to, it can be considered remote.
However, it will soon be more connected to the rest of the world as high-speed internet is coming as a result of new or upgraded broadband infrastructure.
“We’ve committed to ensuring British Columbians have opportunities to participate in the new digital economy wherever they live in B.C.,” Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens’ Services, told the News. “We’re working very hard to connect all communities with high-speed internet. I believe it’s just as essential as the railroad was 100 years ago.”
In July 2018, $16 million was made available through the Connecting British Columbia program. The fund, administered by Northern Development Initiative Trust, offers internet service providers and other local organizations the opportunity to apply for grants to improve high-speed internet access in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.
“With the new digital railroad, not only can we open up doors in education, health care, traditional industries like tourism, emergency preparedness response, but it’s a way of growing the new digital economy and attracting businesses into different parts of British Columbia,” she said.
Applications are being accepted for projects that connect homes and businesses directly, as well as transport infrastructure projects to bring connectivity to entire regions of British Columbia. Successful applicants may receive up to a 50% contribution for project costs and submissions are being reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The connection between arts and the internet have become a lifeline for rural arts organizations,” said Karen Jeffery, executive artistic director, Sunset Theatre Society in Wells. “In the fast-paced world of having information at your fingertips, it’s imperative that we continue to be able to offer that service to visiting artists wanting to create in a rural environment while still being connected to an urban centre.”
The local company, ABC Communications, is receiving Connecting British Columbia grant funding to install or upgrade existing networks and provide homes and businesses with high-speed internet at download speeds reaching 50 Mbps. Residents in these communities will have a connection that is fast enough to load a web page instantly and stream high-definition multimedia content.
The Wells project will provide $59,794 to enhance internet services for 130 homes and businesses in a community that depends on the tourism, arts and mining sectors and also sees a yearly influx of seasonal workers.