PORT ALICE– High-speed internet access was again the talking point at Port Alice’s council meeting this week.
Council heard the results of the latest attempt to lobby for better bandwidth to the village. Wilf Bangert from Network BC met last week with Councilor Marc Brackett, along with representatives from Seaview Elementary, Neucel, Brooks Bay Cable and Neil Smith, the Regional District’s Manager of Economic Development, to discuss the issue.
Network BC is tasked with developing strategies to improve connectivity, particularly in rural areas, in order to achieve the government’s goal of making high-speed internet access available to all British Columbians.
The local representatives outlined the difficulties that arise from the current poor connectivity, from attracting employees to the area to basic productivity, but Bangert was unmoved on the matter, saying the role of Network BC was to leverage existing services to meet the goal of 100 per cent connectivity throughout the province.
Bangert pointed to successes in consolidating accounts and awarding grants to rural communities where service was insufficient but Councilor Brackett observed that the programs mentioned did not benefit Port Alice.
The councilor asked that Network BC solicit an estimate of the cost of installing an upgraded line from Telus so that a figure is known and can be presented at its next meeting.
Telus and Network BC will be send representatives before the Regional District of Mount Waddington July 17 as the District continues to lobby for an upgrade to the service on the North Island. The District is looking at the planned expansion of a power corridor by BC Hydro as the perfect opportunity for a collaboration to cut the cost of laying fiber optic cable from Sayward to Port McNeill, improving the available bandwidth for the whole North Island.
The issue has become a somewhat contentious one, with the service provider arguing that the small customer base does not justify the cost of an expansion, while local representatives say that, without a reliable broadband connection, it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract newcomers to the area.
Smith said that, without an investment in the telecommunications infrastructure, the North Island would fall further and further behind as broadband internet is increasingly seen as a necessity by businesses and employees alike.
Council resolved that the current prominence of the issue, with the upcoming presentation from Telus to the District and the planned BC Hydro expansion, provides an opportunity to keep the issue in the spotlight and to keep pushing for what is seen as an essential upgrade.
Also discussed at the meeting was the notice from the BC Conservation Officer Service that they would be redistributing their staff on the North Island.
One position has been moved from Port McNeill to Black Creek, leaving one Conservation Officer on station north of Campbell River.
The Council registered their disappointment in the decision and resolved to draft a letter of complaint to the Ministry of the Environment and forward a copy to the other affected municipalities on the North Island.
In response to requests from other municipalities to adopt a resolution requesting the federal government abandon proposed changes to the Fisheries Act, the Council deferred the decision for a week in order to study the proposed changes and their potential impact.
Citing difficulties in obtaining regular, relevant and reliable updates on the risk of wildfires in the area, Council resolved to draft a letter to the Ministry of Forests requesting either a resumption of regular updates or the removal of the fire hazard indicator at the entrance to the village.
Without accurate data, Council felt that a more generic caution sign would be more appropriate than potential misinformation or a blanket ban during summer months.