The latest in a long line of commitments to extend high-speed internet service across B.C.’s vast remote regions is an $830 million federal-provincial program over the next five years that promises to reach 115,000 remote households that still don’t have it.
B.C. Citizens’ Services Minister Lisa Beare and Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon announced the program Tuesday, emphasizing that many of the far-flung communities still not reached are Indigenous.
“This joint record investment of $830 million between the federal and provincial governments means many First Nations communities will have high-speed internet access for the first time, advancing true, lasting and meaningful reconciliation and self-determination,” Beare and Kahlon said in a statement March 8. “Approximately 115,000 households in rural, remote and Indigenous communities that are still underserved will now have the same digital economic opportunities as larger urban communities.”
The need for internet access has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and new technologies are bringing a B.C. government promise going back more than a decade closer to reality. Remote health care, education and work have become practical to deliver, using low-orbit satellites as well as wired and fibre optic connections.
The B.C. government’s first push to extend high-speed internet across the province came in 2009, as part of an exclusive contract with Telus to provide government internet services as it rolled out its 3G network. That network extended to 2,100 communities across B.C. and Alberta that previously had no internet access.
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