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High-speed internet coming to more northern B.C. communities

May 15, 2024 at 1:20 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

People in Fort St. James, Williams Prairie Meadow 1A, Cluculz Lake area and Burns Lake areas are getting new infrastructure expanding access to high-speed internet services.

“People in remote and rural areas need the same high-speed internet access as people do in urban centres,” said George Chow, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “We are committed to our goal of connecting every home by 2027 so everyone can take advantage of better access to online education, employment, business opportunities and services unlocked by internet connectivity.”

More than 1,300 households in the Burns Lake area, including just north of Tchesinkut Lake along Highway 35, the Cluculz Lake area, the District of Fort St. James and Williams Prairie Meadow 1A of the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation will get new connectivity network infrastructure. Construction projects to connect these communities will be built and operated by internet service provider CityWest.

“The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako advocated for improved connectivity in rural communities for a long time,” said Michael Riis-Christianson, connectivity committee chair and Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako director for Electoral Area B (Burns Lake Rural). “We are pleased to see that advocacy taking shape in the form of new infrastructure that will ensure residents have high-speed, affordable internet that will serve us well now, as well as into the future.”

The Province is investing up to $1.6 million through the Connecting British Columbia program, administered by Northern Development Initiative Trust. The Government of Canada is investing more than $3.8 million through its Universal Broadband Fund. CityWest will contribute approximately $2.9 million, alongside approximately $713,200 from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.

“Residents along Highway 35 between Burns Lake and Francois Lake will finally be able to connect digitally to the programs and services they need through this new infrastructure,” said Clint Lambert, Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako director for Electoral Area E (Francois/Ootsa Lake Rural). “We are excited to have high-speed internet service extend throughout the region. We are very pleased to see progress being made and new service being built to serve rural populations.”

Additionally, the Province has invested up to $552,600 for a project to connect the area south of the village of Burns Lake as well as the south shore of Burns Lake. CityWest will contribute up to $1.1 million toward the project that is underway and expected to be complete this year.

“Residents of Cluculz Lake will all benefit from this improvement in connectivity,” said Shirley Moon, Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako director for Electoral Area F (Vanderhoof Rural). “We are thrilled that over 420 more homes will have access to the service they need for health care, education, work and social connection. This project is very important to the community, and we are grateful to the Province and CityWest for their commitment to serving rural residents.”

The Province’s investment is part of StrongerBC: Good Lives in Strong Communities, the Province’s new vision that outlines investments to help build a brighter future for rural communities and the people who call them home. Increasing connectivity also supports Clean and Competitive: A Blueprint for B.C.’s Industrial Future.

“Increased reliable and resilient access to high-speed internet improves education, economic opportunities and community cohesion in our regional area,” said Martin Elphee, mayor of Fort St. James. “It is vital to ensure that everyone, whether urban or rural, have equal, reliable and resilient connection opportunities.”

In March 2022, B.C. and Canada announced an agreement to invest up to $830 million to support to expansion of high-speed internet services to all households in B.C. The Connecting Communities BC program provides funding for projects to expand high-speed internet service access to rural and remote areas of the province.

Quotes:

Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development –

“No matter where you live, high-speed internet access has become so important for everyone. Connectivity is key to fostering growth and success in all communities. By enabling better, faster access to online opportunities and services, it empowers people to thrive in the communities they call home.”

Stefan Woloszyn, chief executive officer, CityWest –

“CityWest was built in northern B.C., and we’re excited to bring improved services to underserved communities in the north. These fibre-optic projects will bring urban-class connectivity to more communities, creating equal opportunities for more rural, remote and Indigenous people in British Columbia. We thank the Province of B.C., the Northern Development Initiative Trust and the federal government for their connectivity vision.”

Joel McKay, chief executive officer, Northern Development Initiative Trust –

“The Connecting BC program is bridging the digital divide like never before. With these new projects, over 1,300 more households will have access to high-speed internet. This isn’t just about connecting devices, it’s about connecting lives, fostering economic growth and ensuring that our communities have the tools they need to prosper in today’s connected world.”

Learn More:

To learn more about Connectivity in B.C., visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/connectivity-in-bc

To learn more about Connecting Communities BC, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/connectivity-in-bc/20601

To learn more about StrongerBC: Good Lives in Strong Communities, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Good-Lives-Strong-Communities-2023.pdf

To learn more about StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Plan, visit: https://strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/economic-plan 

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