Wireless network upgrades coming to Bouchie Lake, Ten Mile Lake and rural Quesnel are being hailed as a boost to efforts to diversify economic opportunities in the Cariboo.
Jinny Sims, the provincial minister of Citizens’ Services, was in Quesnel Tuesday, July 23 to announce that the Connecting British Columbia program is providing $298,406 to ABC Communications to help fund wireless network upgrades in communities including Bouchie Lake, Ten Mile Lake, rural Quesnel, rural 122 Mile House, rural Lac La Hache and rural Lone Butte (including Horse Lake). The total estimated cost of the project is $596,812. This project funding was first announced in late June, and the Ministry of Citizens’ Services has not yet defined which areas of “rural Quesnel” are included.
“The activation of reliable, high-speed Internet is essential in ensuring people in rural and Indigenous communities have the same opportunities to diversify and navigate shifting economic forces as those in urban areas,” she said in a press release following the announcement, which took place at the historic telegraph site by the waterwheel. ”Investments such as this will help citizens better provide for their families and benefit from local economic success.”
The Connecting British Columbia program supports work to expand high-speed Internet access in rural and Indigenous communities by providing grants to cover up to 50 per cent of project costs. The Province continues to welcome applications for funding to help improve connectivity for people living in rural and remote areas of B.C.
“The B.C. government’s commitment to investing in rural and Indigenous connectivity projects will help ensure future generations benefit from a strong economy, wherever they live in the province,” said Falko Kadenbach, vice-president of ABC Communications Ltd. “It is vital that we keep up with changes in technology so that people have the tools they need to succeed. Without these investments, the digital divide between urban and rural communities in B.C. would continue to grow.”
On behalf of the Cariboo Regional District, vice-chair John Massier thanked the provincial government for investing in the Cariboo.
“These kinds of investments are vital to our urban and rural communities in the Cariboo Regional District,” he said. “Improving Internet not only grows our communities. Connectivity is a critical need during emergencies, as our recent wildfire seasons have shown.”
Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce vice-president Tracy Bond highlighted the benefits of increased connectivity to local businesses.
“The Quesnel and District Chamber of Commerce celebrates the investment to our rural areas through the expansion of high-speed Internet, specifically in the Bouchie Lake, 10 Mile Lake and rural Quesnel areas,” she said. “The benefits include opening up the marketplace to our rural business members and remote workforce, streamlining business operations to increase competitiveness and strengthening our region through increased communications and mutual support.”
Since July 2017, projects to improve high-speed Internet connectivity are underway or complete in 479 communities, including 83 Indigenous communities and approximately 45,000 households, according to the Ministry of Citizens’ Services.
Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) is currently accepting applications for Connecting British Columbia program funding. This funding is available to help rural and Indigenous communities with infrastructure builds and infrastructure planning projects.
“Connectivity generates new prospects for economic diversification in rural B.C., thus strengthening rural communities and contributing to their attractiveness to businesses and people,” NDIT CEO Joel McKay said in the release.