The provincial government, through the Northern Development Initiative Trust, and ABC Communications are bringing high-speed internet to Deka Lake, Clinton and Wells. There will also be improved coverage for Sulphurous Lake, according to the Ministry of Citizens’ Services.
However, it’s not entirely clear what speeds residents will see.
Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens’ Service wasn’t sure what packages would be offered for Deka Lake, Clinton and Wells noting that, “How it’s going to be packaged is not really within the purview of the government. That really depends on the provider.”
The ministry followed up, noting that “The province’s Connecting British Columbia program has been updated to adhere to the new CRTC criteria, which requires download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps).”
Further adding that “Questions about packages offered are best directed to the internet service provider, ABC Communications.”
While the packages on offer will vary by area, their complete range of packages has download speeds in the range of 3 Mbps to 25 Mbps, according to ABC Communications.
That is short of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s target of 50 Mbps.
“That’s why we’re making sure that any builds that are taking place now have that future proofing built right into it,” according to Sims.
She noted that the communities are receiving slightly different services with Wells and Deka Lake receiving LTE A and Clinton receiving Fibre.
The total cost is $945,530, up to half of which is funded through the Connection British Columbia which saw $16 million available in July 2018.
The investment will see the capacity for speeds of up to 50 Mbps to approximately 650 households and businesses, of which 200 are in Deka Lake and 327 in Clinton. According to the province’s Connecting British Columbia program, completion will have to be demonstrated by March, 2020.
A similar announcement was made in April 2017 when it was announced ABC would be connecting 2,700 rural households and businesses in 100 Mile House, Lone Butte, Gateway, Canim Lake, Sheridan Lake, Interlakes and Horse Lake with speed packages of 3 Mbps to 15 Mbps. Although it was noted that the systems would be scalable to 50 Mbps.
“In my Ministry, we also see it as a foundational piece to support small and medium businesses, local businesses, tourism economy and to diversify and grow the economy.”
The minister wasn’t sure whether the project announced in April 2017 was completed, as that was under the previous government. She says, however, that the exciting part is that three small communities are going to have access to services they didn’t have before.
“Our goal is to connect all communities with high-speed internet because I know that just like in the old days we looked at the importance of railroads to connect regions and communities, today the fibre highways are the new railroads of the 21st century.”
In the instance of Deka Lake, the Connecting British Columbia contributed $78,862, $334,108 for Clinton and $59,794 for Wells.
Falko Kadenbach, vice-president of ABC Communications emphasized the importance of the investment in light of the wildfires and flooding in recent years.
“Throughout the past two summers, British Columbians have been challenged by natural disasters. ABC Communications, along with many other service providers, provides a lifeline to many residents in rural B.C. during these events. Programs like the Connecting British Columbia program play an important role in making these services available, affordable and reliable to British Columbians.”
Julie Fowler is the executive and artistic director of Island Mountain Arts, which runs the ArtsWells festival. She says they attract about 2,500 people to Wells for that.
“When we have a better connection to the internet, we’ll be able to webcast some of the artist talks and concerts and readings that we do. That would be a really neat thing to do. Those kinds of opportunities aren’t really an option for us right now.”
She says high-speed internet is going to make a big difference.
Jennifer Lewis, a supervising sound designer in Wells for film and video games, echoes that sentiment.
“Having high-speed internet is going to speed up my delivery times and responsiveness, and allow me to feel more a part of the industry. Currently, I have to build long digital delivery times into my time estimates or ask for a hard drive to be shipped when the files are too large. When someone asks for a file to review, I have to say, ‘sure, it’ll be up in an hour or so’ and explain that I’m on limited internet — not what clients expect to hear these days.”