Funding has been secured to expand Columbia Basin Trust’s regional fibre optic network between Fruitvale and Nelson. 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,” Columbia Basin Trust president and CEO Johnny Strilaeff said in a news release. “Developing a fibre optic network between communities is the first step of many required to improve connectivity for rural households in another 10 Basin communities.”
The projects will see 70 km of backbone fibre optic cable installed between Fruitvale and Nelson, benefiting the communities of Erie, Hall Siding, Meadows, Montrose, Park Siding, Porto Rico, Salmo and Ymir.
Hans Cunningham, the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s Area G director said he is 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.
The fibre optic network will also be expanded between Kimberley and Wasa. Two two projects are worth $7.6 million.
The Trust is providing a total of $1.29 million. 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).
The Trust is also in the midst of building a fibre backbone in the Slocan Valley.