Jinny Sims is B.C.’s Minister of Citizens Services.

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

The province is putting up another $50 million for about 200 municipalities and First Nations to apply for and connect their rural residents to high-speed internet.

Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims said this comes ahead of another $750-million CRTC fund for rural and First Nation communities expected to be announced this week.

“We’re certainly hoping to leverage that fund with our $50 million. We’ve been very lucky in the past. We’ve been able to leverage two, three, four times with the federal government, as well as with the private sector,” said Sims, in a phone interview with The Interior News from a technology conference in Vancouver.

Companies play an important role in the connection plan. Sims encouraged community leaders to work regionally to come up with a connection plan with local internet providers.

“What we say to them is we don’t decide where it is going to go, we rely on local communities – both Indigenous and municipalities – to work with the private sector to put together proposals that then get submitted to the CRTC.”

COLUMN: National internet access plan needed in next federal budget

Funding is available to help smaller communities that don’t have the resources to put together in-depth proposals through Northern Development Initiative Trust.

For areas far from high-speed cables, Sims said other ways of connection will be considered.

“When you get broadband along the major corridors, then it is possible with the new technologies that are coming along to put in a far more economical solution to reach those remote areas, including improvements we could do in satellite but also with the advent of 5G,” said Sims.

“It’s not one size fits all.”

All this is on top of the 150 communities connecting under the Connected Coastline project that reaches all the way up the west coast, which Sims hopes to see completed in 12 months.

READ MORE: New cell service coming to B.C.’s Highway of Tears

Since July 2017, 417 communities have connected or started to build connections to high-speed internet, defined as a download speed of 50 megabytes per second. That equates to 43,000 households, including homes in 74 Indigenous communities, according to the provincial government.

Sims said communities need to look at internet infrastructure the same way they look at roads and pipes. “This is just as essential as that now for survival, I would say.”

Connecting people also means people need to be able to afford it. Internet package prices are consistently higher in rural areas compared to urban areas, about $10 more for a basic $50-60 deal, according to an NDIT report.

“We are working very closely with the federal government, and I know they’ve made some announcements where they’re looking at addressing the difference. But we do know that key service providers do provide basic services at a very minimal low cost based on an individual’s income already,” said Sims.

She added that people have told her getting proper internet or cell service is a “game changer.”

“We’ve had tears in the room, even the announcement, never mind the actual connectivity that comes with it,” said the former history teacher.

“When Canada grew as a nation, it was with the great western railroad. As the railroad spread west, it helped economics grow, it helped communities to grow, and it led to many other arterial routes besides the single railroad coming across.

“To me, the digital fibre is the new railroad of the 21st century.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Staff recommends awarding contract for RC Cotton pedestrian bridge

City council will discuss the $623,595 tender at the regular meeting Tuesday, June 26 and possibly pursuing other grants

Tsilhqot’in Nation urges Taseko Mines to stop drilling plans before conflict grows

Nation said Teztan Biny area is of ‘profound cultural and spiritual importance’

Signage up for new cannabis shop, licence yet to be approved

Pacificanna owner said he is still waiting for licence, but opened his Port Hardy shop June 21

City of Williams Lake dismantles homeless camp in River Valley

Williams Lake Fire Dept. responded to a fire at the site the day before

VIDEO: Tributes flow on 10th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death

Jackson received a fatal dose of the anesthetic propofol on June 25, 2009. He died at age 50

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Thieves steal two $40K chairs featuring gold serpents from B.C. furniture store

Chairs believed to be the only two of its kind in Canada, police said

Rising gas prices force B.C. residents to rethink summer road trips: poll

63 per cent of respondents reported gas prices are impacting their day-to-day finances

Two in hospital after plane crashes in Okanagan Lake

RCMP say wheels left down caused landing plane to overturn on lake

The world’s Indigenous speakers gather in B.C.’s capital to revitalize languages

Organizers estimate about 1,000 delegates from 20 countries will be at the conference

Join talks on international treaty: B.C. First Nations mark ‘historic moment’

Representatives of the Ktunaxa, Syilx/Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations participated

Most Read