Minister of Technology

Minister of Technology

Tech minister promises more broadband

Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services visited Williams Lake last week, meeting to hear concerns.

When it comes to gaps in broadband or cellular services in the Cariboo, B.C.’s minister of technology, innovation and citizens services wants to hear about it.

Last week Andrew Wilkinson visited Williams Lake and attended meetings arranged by Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. He heard concerns about cell coverage at Chimney and Felker Lakes more than once, he said.

“The issue there is that the winter resident population is much smaller than the summer resident population so the demand is very seasonal,” Wilkinson said. “We’ve now got to go back and push on Telus to convince them that the seasonal demands of retirement warrants putting up a tower to service the area.”

Telecommunication companies work in consortiums and will sometimes club together to put up a tower, with one of the companies agreeing to be the lead proponent, Wilkinson explained.

Once the tower’s erected and functional, each company pays for the proportion of traffic that belongs to them. Access to landline internet in the province is presently at 93 per cent, and will never get to 100 per cent, so the province is pushing to work from the far end backwards to the most remote locations with live broadband.

In April the provincial government announced it had partnered with Xplornet Communications Inc. and local installers to provide subsidy to people who live where satellite technology is the only option to access the internet.

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

Wilkinson said take up has been “pretty brisk,” especially in places like fishing lodges.

His ministry is also trying to “grow the role” of the province’s 61 BC Service Centres.

“We have capable and motivated staff so we’re trying to get more and services into their hands because they deliver them very quickly,” Wilkinson said. “And we’re wanting them to take on a bigger role in organ donation.”

About 1.4 million people have the new services cards in a population of 4.6 million so as people renew driver’s licenses there will be an opportunity to talk to customers about organ donation.

While 50 per cent of the population believe they are registered as organ donors, only 19 per cent are registered.

There has also been a pilot project in Cranbrook where the social services ministry and BC Service Centre are in the same building.

“People have been very happy with that arrangement,” Wilkinson said. “We are trying to make the retail front of government readily accessible.”