B.C. invests $50M to bring high-speed internet to remote areas

The B.C. government’s $50-million investment into connectivity means 200 more rural and Indigenous communities will be equipped with high-speed internet.

While the province boasts the highest level of connectivity in Canada, with 92 per cent of the population having high-speed internet, 70 per cent of B.C.’s rural and Indigenous communities don’t share this kind of access.

The provincial government’s investment aims to bridge that gap.

“We, as a province, can no longer sit by as our neighbours in rural and Indigenous communities remain unconnected,” said Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims. “No matter where you live in B.C., we want you on a level playing field for internet access.”

Constructing the digital infrastructure required for this kind of high-speed internet, Sims acknowledged, is challenging, especially in a province as geographically diverse as B.C.

“These fibre-optic lines must travel underwater, through the air, and underground,” she said. “Engineers and technicians must…cross mountains, navigate lakes and waterways.”

Tackling these challenges, however, is worth it, Sims explained. Having internet service is essential for communities – and not just for Netflix and Facetime.

“Connectivity is important when it comes to protecting our environment, our economic growth – whether it be tourism, whether it be the new tech sector, whether it be our traditional industries,” she said.

“And it’s also so essential for safety reasons as we drive down some interesting highways and byways and also for emergency preparedness and for…contacting our loved ones.”

Sims says that while the government will assist with funding, they can’t do all of the planning. She encourages rural and Indigenous community leaders to work with local internet providers to create projects for connectivity.

Communities that don’t have the resources to make detailed proposals can get assistance and funding from the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

The province has already connected or is in the process of connecting high-speed internet to 417 communities across B.C., including 74 Indigenous communities, since July 2017.

“We can and we will achieve our goal of complete connectivity in B.C.,” Sims said. “Let’s light up the province.”

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