VICTORIA – People in rural and Indigenous communities throughout B.C. will benefit from record investments in connectivity projects to improve high-speed internet and expand cellular access along provincial highways.

This is part of StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan.

“For too long, people living in rural and remote parts of B.C. have been struggling with slow, intermittent internet access,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “We are taking action to ensure the benefits of high-speed internet are shared by everyone in B.C., especially those in rural and remote regions who contribute so much to our province. Our economic recovery is strengthened when we can all get online to do business, learn and connect with loved ones.”

In September 2020, the Province made its largest ever contribution to the Connecting British Columbia program, with $90 million of new funding under StrongerBC. Families and workplaces in as many as 200 rural and Indigenous communities can expect construction to begin this spring and summer, with completion targeted for fall 2021.

“I hear stories from my community and others across the province about how essential high-speed internet is for growth, innovation and prosperity in today’s economy,” said Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development. “Bringing high-speed internet access to all people in B.C. is about closing the digital divide and giving everyone an equal opportunity to share in its diverse benefits.”

The Village of Keremeos is seeing the immediate benefits of connectivity funding. A fibre-to-the-home project from Telus is complete, connecting more than 900 households and workplaces to higher internet speeds.

“Investing in the advancement of technological infrastructure in Keremeos has brought tremendous benefits to our residents, businesses and service agencies,” said Manfred Bauer, mayor of Keremeos.

“During this pandemic and the provincial health directives, it has allowed us to switch to a virtual world more adequately.”

Families, students and entrepreneurs in Keremeos can now access internet download speeds up to 40 times faster than the 25 megabits-per-second speeds they had previously. They can use video conferencing, online learning and remote working at a time when they need it most. The local agriculture sector will also benefit from access to smart agriculture services to improve output and protect crops.

“This partnership with government has delivered upon our collective commitment to bridge digital divides and ensure more British Columbians have the technology they need – wherever they live – to fully participate in the digital economy,” said Tony Geheran, executive vice-president and chief customer officer, Telus. “Our PureFibre network is the best internet technology available today with symmetrical upload and download speeds, and we’re happy to confirm the build in Keremeos was completed ahead of schedule and on budget. What’s most important to celebrate is the tangible human outcome of these projects, which is connecting all premises in Keremeos to a network that will support residents and businesses for generations to come.”

Northern Development Initiative Trust, which runs the Connecting British Columbia program, receives and reviews applications from internet service providers on an ongoing basis.

“This is the largest funding opportunity for connectivity projects we have seen to date. In just a few years, the Connecting BC program has helped bring the benefits of high-speed internet to hundreds of communities and thousands of households across the province,” said Joel McKay, CEO of Northern Development Initiative Trust.

“We are pleased to see the interest from service providers in the latest phase of the program.”

This announcement is part of B.C.’s $10-billion COVID-19 response, which includes StrongerBC, a commitment to protect people’s health and livelihoods while supporting businesses and communities.

Quick Facts:

* Since July 2017, projects to improve high-speed internet access are underway or complete in more than 500 communities, including 87 Indigenous communities.

* Projects receiving grants are also expected to improve cellular service along approximately 140 kilometres of provincial highways, while expanding the availability of roadside call boxes and Wi-Fi enabled highway rest areas.