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Funding secured to expand broadband network

Aerial view from Fruitvale: Funding of $4.9 million has been secured to expand Columbia Basin Trust’s regional fibre optic network between Fruitvale and Nelson.

Funding of $7.6 million has been secured to expand Columbia Basin Trust’s regional fibre optic network between Fruitvale and Nelson and between Kimberley and Wasa. Permitting and other pre-construction work on the projects will start soon, with support from federal, provincial and regional partners.

“Our goal is to help people throughout the Columbia Basin—whether farmers, students or home-based businesses—access the same level of internet service that they would in more populated areas” said Johnny Strilaeff, Columbia Basin Trust President and Chief Executive Officer. “Developing a fibre optic network between communities is the first step of many required to improve connectivity for rural households in another ten Basin communities.”

The projects will see 70 km of backbone fibre optic cable installed between Fruitvale and Nelson, benefiting the communities of Erie, Hall, Meadows, Montrose, Park Siding, Porto Rico, Salmo and Ymir; and 30 km of backbone fibre optic cable between Kimberley and Wasa, benefiting the communities of Meadowbrook and Ta Ta Creek.

“Connecting rural communities to affordable high-speed internet service has been an ongoing vision of both the Regional Connectivity Committee and our Regional District of East Kootenay Board,” said Regional District of East Kootenay Board Chair Rob Gay. “Today’s announcement moves us one step closer to achieving this goal and is an exciting step forward for the Kimberley to Wasa corridor.”

Hans Cunningham, Director of Area G in the Regional District of Central Kootenay, stated that he is extremely pleased with the extension of the fibre backbone from Fruitvale to Nelson. “This link will provide Wi-Fi security and extra capability as it completes the tri-city loop, and will also provide high-speed Wi-Fi to the area through which it passes. It is sorely needed.”

The goal is to be finished by March 2024, subject to permitting and other factors that can impact the construction schedule. Once completed, internet service providers can connect to the expanded network to provide services to homes. In addition to bringing high-speed connectivity to underserved areas, households that already have high-speed service will see improved network performance and reduced internet downtime due to outages from incidents like accidental breaks in the fibre.

“Affordable and reliable high-speed internet access is so important for so many of us in Rural BC, and that’s why our government has been investing more than ever before in connectivity projects for rural communities throughout the province,” said Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development. “These partnerships and investments help give our communities and our residents the potential to really thrive economically, socially and individually.”

The Trust is providing a total of $1.29 million to the two projects. Other funders include the federal Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ($4.9 million through the Broadband Fund), the provincial government ($800,000 through the Connecting British Columbia program), the Regional District of Central Kootenay ($400,000) and the Regional District of East Kootenay ($200,000).

These projects, along with the 185 km of backbone currently being built in the Slocan Valley and South Country, will bring the Trust’s fibre optic network in the Basin to 1,250 km. Learn about the Trust’s work in broadband at broadband.ourtrust.org.

Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit ourtrust.org.