Editorial: outcome of internet announcement still ‘loading’

Will Wells really get the internet speeds promised in a recent government announcement?

Last week the provincial government announced that they would be bringing high-speed internet to Deka Lake, Clinton and Wells.

Minister of Citizens’ Services, Jinny Sims, said: “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.”

There’s absolutely no doubt that any steps that give residents and businesses better access to that market are absolutely welcome. However, there’s also something left to be desired here. 

Just last year, a similar announcement was made for 2,700 South Cariboo homes, including in the Interlakes area. Both the upgrade for Wells, Clinton and Deka Lake and last year’s upgrade were in combination with ABC Communications. When asked, the minister didn’t appear to be familiar with last year’s announcement, nor was she able to say what the status on that was, noting that that was under the previous government.

RELATED: Faster internet for the South Cariboo area

Sims also said that “how it’s going to be packaged is not really within the purview of the government. That really depends on the provider.”

This situation is a little hard to believe. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been given to a private organization and now more money is being provided to that organization, despite the minister being seemingly unaware of how past partnerships have worked out, nor with the government having a say in the final product.

If our provincial government shelled out money to purchase buses in collaboration with a bus company for a bus service through the Cariboo, minimum service levels should be within the purview of government: i.e. if the company only offered stops through the Cariboo twice a year, that would be unacceptable if they took government money specifically for the purpose of delivering bus service to the Cariboo. If they delivered regular service but each ticket was $10,000, that would also be unacceptable.

Now in all fairness, perhaps it’s simply the minister who’s poorly informed.

“The province works closely with the Northern Development Initiative Trust, which administers the Connecting British Columbia program, to ensure regular reporting is completed for each project.”

Furthermore, while ABC Communications currently offers packages of 3 to 25 Mbps perhaps it’s possible that by March 31, 2020 (the deadline), the company will be offering 50 Mbps packages.

Depending on what the packages will be like and ABC Communications’ execution, this may be an absolutely fantastic announcement. As the minister said, “fibre highways are the new railroads of the 21st century” and bringing that infrastructure to the Cariboo is obviously welcome. However, if ABC Communications only ends up offering packages of 3 Mbps in these regions, despite having the capacity for 25 Mbps, or even 50 Mbps packages that are well out of reach in terms of cost for most people and businesses, this seems like a poor use of taxpayers dollars. You’d think the minister would consider that to be within her “purview.”

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