Less than a month ago, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board agreed to apply for money from the provincial government to improve broadband and cell service in the region.
This week, the government announced it will contribute $50 million to an ongoing internet connectivity program to bring high-speed services to rural, remote and Indigenous communities.
Ravi Kahlon, the parliamentary secretary for rural development, said the grant funding is expected to benefit people living in up to 200 rural and Indigenous communities.
The funding can be used to help bring high-speed internet to entire regions or to make final connections to homes and businesses, he said.
“Bringing connectivity to communities takes timing, collaboration and hard work to design local solutions and develop infrastructure that meets the needs of its residents, and to ensure the network is one that people and businesses can depend on,’’ Kahlon said.
The $50 million is the single-largest investment in the province’s Connecting British Columbia program since its creation in 2015, Kahlon said.
The program has started or completed projects in 479 communities since July 2017, of which 83 are Indigenous communities, according to the Ministry of Citizens’ Services.
Rural internet provider Falko Kadenbach said it is challenging to build fast, reliable and affordable networks into more remote areas, but noted the benefits improve services, lives and communities.
Kadenbach said his networks cover vast areas of B.C. from Terrace to Mackenzie to Osoyoos.
Kahlon said rural and remote communities are also eligible to access the federal government’s recently released $750-million broadband fund to provide investments in local infrastructure to deliver high-speed internet.
Last month, the TNRD board approved an application for $15,000 from the Northern Development Initiative Trust Connection British Columbia grant fund, which would be added to $5,000 from each of the TNRD’s 10 electoral areas.
Calls for internet improvements have been heard from the regional district communities of Logan Lake, Pinantan, Clinton, Lytton, Paul Lake, Heffley Lake, Sun Peaks, Clearwater and Vavenby.
The issue, officials have said, stretches beyond recreational use of the web and impacts the operations of businesses.