ABC Communications will receive $176,681 in funding from the province’s Connecting British Columbia program to improve the speed and reliability of internet connectivity in Horsefly.
“The community in general will be pleased if we had more capacity on our internet out here,” said Linda Bartsch, secretary treasurer of the Horsefly Board of Trade in a news release.
In the Horsefly area, during busy times of day, the speed slows down because everybody’s on the internet, she added.
”You’re trying to do something and it will just slow down to the point where you can’t accomplish what you’re trying to do. A lot of people want to live and visit here for the nice lifestyle. Better connectivity will help us attract more people and create opportunities to grow the local economy.”
Bartsch said ABC Communications is the only provider for fibre optic service, the other choices are via satellite if a residence or business does not have line of sight to the tower.
“The is one tower in Horsefly and one at Horsefly Lake,” she said.
Horsefly has been enjoying the service for many years, she added.
“Forestry used to have an office here and there was fibre optic cable brought out for the office. That office closed in 2003.”
Bartsch said Peter Lunn from BC Wireless in 100 Mile House obtained funding from the federal government and worked with the Horsefly Board of Trade, Cecil Morhart and herself, to bring internet to the community via that fibre optic cable.
“That was around 2005. In 2014 a second tower was built at Horsefly Lake.”
Falko Kadenbach, manager of operations for ABC Communications praised Bartsch as being a huge part of the push to get better connectivity for the area.
“She’s been somebody I’ve worked with for a number years along with Cecil Morhart,” Kadenbach said.
Describing the project he said ABC Communications is upgrading its LTE systems to provide 50 megabits per second capable services to 200 residences.
In 2011, ABC Communications took over the wireless service in the Horsefly area and has been doing upgrades since then.
“We started out at about one megabit per second,” Kadenbach recalled. “The current service capability for Horsefly community is 25 megabit per second and Horsefly Lake is 50 megabit per second. We had an opportunity to provide upgrades to the Horsefly Lake area but not with the community of Horsefly itself at that time. This is just to bring everyone to parody.”
Work on the upgrades is already underway and should be completed by September or October, he said, noting they are building a new fibre line that goes to the tower site, located on a hill in the northwest side of the community.
“From there we have new LTE systems that have been installed on the tower, but they need to be livened up still. There’s backbone capacity with the fibre and uninterrupted power supplies that will be installed at the site for resiliency purposes.”
Kadenbach said he is looking forward to the improved service and the changes he has seen since becoming part of ABC Communications 17 years ago.
“It is a pretty amazing evolution of technology and consumption. If we start to look at the growth curve and the utilization of these technologies it is a pretty amazing tract and a significant amount of financial investment to keep up with it all.”
Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell is parliamentary secretary for rural development and told the Tribune the funding is part of a bigger commitment to try make every part of B.C. connected.
Northern Development Initiative Trust has been the fund administrator for Connecting British Columbia since its start in 2015.
This announcement is part of B.C.’s $10-billion COVID-19 response, which includes StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan – a commitment to protect people’s health and livelihoods, while supporting businesses and communities.
“There are many, many challenges,” Russell said. “For all of us living in rural B.C. we know there are people who do not have internet service. In a lot of places the challenge is making sure the more sparsely populated areas still have options to connect to high speed internet.”
He agreed there are many unserved and under-served parts of the province when it comes to internet access.
“We live in a beautiful place, but that beauty and topographical diversity certainly comes with challenges of laying fibre or installing cell phone towers,” he said.
Whether it’s for the ability to connect with friends and family or even for an emergency, it’s important to continue to expand connectivity, he added.