Government supports Internet access in rural communities

Rural and remote access to the Internet in B.C. has received a boost in the arm.

On Thursday, the provincial government announced a $2 million investment to help rural and remote residents afford satellite Internet technology.

Customers can receive assistance for installation costs to the tune of 50 per cent or up to $250.

It can cost $500 because technicians have to travel so far in some cases.

Government partnered with Xplornet Communications Inc. and local installers to provide the subsidy to people who live where satellite Internet technology is the only option.

“Getting high speed Internet into remote areas has always been very challenging,” said Thomas Koeth, one of the owners of Can Com Electronics Ltd. in Williams Lake.

“We are excited the government is considering satellite technology as a viable option to deliver high speed service into rural areas.”

Koeth said this is the first investment of its kind made by government, but a needed one due to the challenges of servicing a province with so many forests and mountains.

“It makes it more affordable for us to get into the really remote areas,” Koeth said, noting residents in places like Bella Coola and Nemiah Valley will certainly benefit from the subsidy.

Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Andrew Wilkinson said government is making the investment because the Internet has become a necessity for 21st century life.

“Getting all British Columbians online will help expand economic opportunities, connect families and help bring the world to every corner of the province.”

The program will help with the adoption of broadband, said Xplornet senior vice-president Bill Macdonald Thursday.

“Access to broad band has been out there, the challenge has been the affordability.”

Xplornet presently has three satellites in orbit — two 4Gs were launched last year. The older one will undergo some upgrades in the near future.

The company was successful achieving the tender after the government put out a request for proposals.

“We use all independent dealers to install the satellite dishes for us across the province so it will drive more business to them and benefit local economies,” Macdonald continued.

Making broad band more affordable puts rural and remote communities on a level playing field with urbanites, he added.

“Satellite internet technology can get around some of the terrain challenges faced by towers,” Macdonald said.

“If you get access to satellite TV, you can get access to satellite Internet.”

Today, more than 93 per cent of British Columbians have access to high-speed Internet.

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