BY BILL PHILLIPS
Thinking about streaming all eight seasons of Game of Thrones this weekend? Or maybe locking yourself in the basement and playing FortNite for 72 hours straight? Or maybe you’d just like www.pgdailynews.ca to load a little bit quicker.
If faster internet is what you’re after, you’re in luck. It’s coming to Prince George.
Telus announced this morning that it is investing $150 million in Prince George over the next three years to connect more than 90 per cent of homes and businesses in Prince George including the North Side of Lheidli T’enneh First Nation’s Fort George 2 reserve directly to its fibre optic network, called PureFibre.
“We’ve been working for the past while with a lot of local officials and residents with the shared vision that we want to make this region the most connected in North America,” said Shazia Zeb Sobani, Telus Vice-President of Customer Network Implementation, to a group of about 75 people, mostly Telus employees, at the Civic Centre Thursday. “What (the $150 million investment) brings to Prince George is the No. 1 internet technology, in speed and reliability, through our very strong and robust PureFibre network.”
The gigabit-enabled PureFibre network is among the most advanced communications infrastructure available in the world today, giving residents dramatically fast Internet speeds up to a gigabit, while businesses, schools, healthcare providers and other institutions can access even more speed and capacity. The PureFibre network offers equally fast upload and download speeds, which provides significant benefits for applications like video conferencing, gaming, and home security.
“We are going to create a very robust connectivity, not just for the wire line, but for the wireless services as well,” she said. “And at the same time we’re going to set the foundation for future technologies, such as 5G.”
Work on the fibre network has already started and it is expected to be complete by 2022.
This significant investment brings Telus’ total investment in northern B.C. to more than $350 million since 2013. TELUS has connected more than 500 kilometres of Highway 16 to new wireless service, giving residents and visitors the ability to make phone calls from the highway, and enhancing safety by providing providing fast access to 911 in the event of an emergency. TELUS has also connected Kitimat, Terrace, Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Hudson’s Hope, Williams Lake, Quesnel, and Witset to the TELUS PureFibre network, and has brought more northern B.C. communities high-speed Internet and Optik TV.
It’s certainly welcome news for Lheidli T’enneh. Chief Clayton Pountney said the band has been working on producing podcasts for its members and the faster internet speed will help.
“Our nation will continue to expand our business holdings in Prince George and throughout our territory and we require the best Internet services available,” said Pountney. “The investment TELUS has announced today will ensure that we can take our rightful place in the global economy.”
A direct connection to the network comes at no cost to taxpayers or residents, and Telus plans to bring this critical network infrastructure to more communities in the years ahead. Residents can expect to see Telus trucks throughout the community as construction begins, and Telus representatives out knocking on their door to receive permission to connect their home to the network. Once homes are connected, residents can immediately begin taking advantage of dramatically faster and symmetrical Internet speeds.
“In my work as the MLA for Prince George-Valemount, Telus has been a critical partner in looking at how Prince George and the region are as competitive as they can possibly be,” said Shirley Bond, Prince George-Valemount MLA. “That’s what this is about today. It’s about diversifying our economy.”
She said faster internet translates into jobs and growing the economy.
“As we grapple with moving to a knowledge-based economy, this is exactly the tool we need to do that,” she said. “It gives us a great deal of hope.”
Mayor Lyn Hall was also happy with the investment in the city and the area.
“It’s an opportunity for us to expand on economic development and the development that we’ve seen in this community over the past four or five years,” said Hall. “That amount of money, and that technology that is being introduced into our community really does help us. It helps us competitively when we’re going after large companies to make their home in here.”
Hall also said the announcement has a significant public safety aspect as well. Over the past two summers the city has been home to more than 13,000 evacuees from neighbouring communities, forced out of their homes due to wildfires.
“One of the things (the B.C. Wildfire Service) struggled with was communication to the outlying areas to notify them that they had to evacuate, or they had to be prepared to evacuate” said Hall. “This is a huge piece of the puzzle for us when it comes to public safety.”