Following the March 13, 2018, funding announcement of $38 million for five regional projects, partners and stakeholders gathered to celebrate the people and communities that will benefit from this investment, announced Minister of Citizens’ Services, Jinny Sims.
With recent news of federal, provincial and partner funding to improve reliable access to high-speed internet, Sims, First Nations Technology Council executive director Denise Williams, Shaw Communications vice-president Chima Nkemdirim and CityWest Cable vice-president Bart Kuntz gathered to highlight the impact and benefits this funding will have for the people of British Columbia. Joseph Lavoie from Gwaii Communications provided a video message.
People and places in B.C. have seen real and valuable change in their communities with the introduction of high-speed connectivity. This new funding means even more people and businesses in rural areas will soon have expanded access to improved services and opportunities.
People like Peter Randrup in Smithers, who is on disability assistance, has found a new way to connect to people in his present and his past, thanks to online genealogy research. Reliable internet access has allowed him to find more information about his Danish routes; digging up details as far back at the 1700s. That, plus keeping in regular contact with others in his community, means he is not so isolated.
When a Syrian refugee family arrived in Terrace, they had very little, including scant financial resources. Connectivity in this community means they can find local resources online, and they can stay in touch with their family back home. They do it regularly, and they do it inexpensively. It’s a real comfort that allows them to build their new lives and become a part of their new country.
School District 52 in Prince Rupert is a long way from the many resources enjoyed by kids in Vancouver. Poor bandwidth once meant students didn’t have access to “next-generation” learning tools. Without these resources, they were missing out and didn’t have the same opportunities as those in more populated areas of the province. In order to deliver the same quality of learning as every other B.C. student, teachers need real-time access to online tools and services. High-speed connectivity makes the difference in a student’s future.
From school-age kids to seniors, everyone everywhere needs to be reliably connected. Seniors in the Delta King Place Housing Society in Kitimat also need high-speed access for online courses, keeping in touch with loved ones, YouTube presentations and the latest information about government services. Aging in the North means broadband is even more necessary as support workers want to not only connect their clients, but serve them with the latest tools and supports. Much of that is on the web.
The funding announced by the federal and provincial government, along with their partners, will mean students, new Canadians, seniors and individuals can all get access to resources, opportunities and each other in their communities, any time they need it.
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada committed $19.7 million; Ministry of Citizens’ Services’ Connecting British Columbia program will bring another $11.3 million; and funding partners, Shaw Communications, Gwaii Communications and CityWest Cable and Telephone Corporation will collectively deliver $7.2 million. Altogether this funding will mean 33 communities, including 13 First Nations and Indigenous communities, will be much closer to connectivity.
The provincial funding is managed by the Northern Development Initiative Trust and supports four of the five announced projects. These four projects, once completed, will bring benefits to 32 rural communities, including 12 First Nations and Indigenous communities. This funding includes:
- $1.9 million to CityWest Cable and Telephone Corporation for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako;
- $400,000 to Gwaii Communications for communities on Haida Gwaii;
- $1.9 million to Shaw Communications for fibre-optic cable along Highway 99, between Whistler and Cache Creek; and,
- $7 million to Shaw Communications to build fibre-optic cable along Highway 97 between Prince George and Dawson Creek.
Peter Randrup of Smithers –
“I’m on disability because of an anxiety disorder, so I really can’t get out a lot. (The internet) keeps me connected to people. I think that’s very important. There’s times when I felt quite left out. If you’re on a limited income – I don’t have a cell phone. I can’t afford one. You want to feel you’re not left out of what everyone else is doing. There’s a tendency to feel like everyone’s talking about this and that, everybody has a cell phone.”
Sharon Bandstra, member of Terrace Christian Reformed Church, sponsors of Syrian Refugee family –
“When (the Syrian refugee family) came, they didn’t come with much. With internet and with cell service and stuff, they could call their family and get on the internet and connect with them. Otherwise, how would they get in touch with them? They came with nothing. Now it’s not an expense like it used to be, long distance charges. That made a big difference. It’s a reality today that you connect by emailing and texting and through cell phones. If you don’t have that access, it’s hard to get a hold of people and you are cut off.”
Andrew Samoil, director of instruction, educational innovation, School District 52, Prince Rupert –
“It’s a great equalizer. I’ve taught, before coming here, I was in the far Northwest Territories, the farthest you can go north. Bandwidth is an issue. In general, we are mandated by the (Ministry of Education) to provide the same educational experience as kids get at Point Grey in Vancouver. The same. Our kids deserve the same access … so when they graduate, they go to UBC, they go to UVic, they have to compete with kids graduating from the schools in the big city.”
Lucy Borges, manager, Delta King Place Housing Society, Kitimat –
“I think it’s very important. I have one tenant who is legally deaf – that is how she communicates with friends and family. She can’t give them a call and say ‘hello’. That’s how she communicates with loved ones. (The world is) rapidly changing and we need to make sure that everybody is able to change with it.”
Connecting British Columbia program: https://www.northerndevelopment.bc.ca/funding-programs/partner-programs/connecting-british-columbia/
Gwaii Communications: http://www.gwaiicomm.com/
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/innovation-science-economic-development.html