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Improving Internet connectivity in rural Houston

Director Rob Newell says rural areas need to be better served
Although Internet connectivity between Prince Rupert to Prince George has improved in recent years, Director of Electoral Area G (Houston rural) Rob Newell says many rural areas were left underserved. (Black Press file photo)

Rob Newell, Director of Electoral Area G (Houston rural), believes that rural areas of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) need to be better served when it comes to Internet connectivity.

Although he says that Internet connectivity between Prince Rupert to Prince George has improved in recent years, many rural areas were left with inadequate service.

“Rural B.C. has much to offer, therefore we should not be looking for catch-up speeds, but something that surpasses the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s targets of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload,” Newell told Houston Today.

“Internet connectivity is required to be both affordable and reliable to meet the need of our rural population,” he continued. “That cannot be achieved without additional funding to what is available today.”

Newell believes the solution to funding issues lies in the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) - a group that hopes to see the province re-invest money from resources generated in the northwest from sectors such as lumber and mining. Earlier this year the provincial government committed $300,000 to enable the RBA to work closely with stakeholders to lock down a proposal to be sent back to the B.C. government.

READ MORE: Work “well underway” for shared revenue in northwest B.C.

“The RBA could provide the ability to fund this critical part of our infrastructure needs, not for only 90 per cent of our rural population but 100 per cent.”

After attending the 2018 B.C. Broadband Conference in Richmond earlier this year, Newell wrote a report to the RDBN board recommending the regional district to hire a consultant to help them make decisions regarding Internet connectivity.

He says there are a few options to be considered.

“Do we spend a considerable amount on ground infrastructure (fibre network), install low-cost wireless networks or wait for Elon Musk and Google to give us inexpensive satellite coverage? There are pros and cons in all three.”

“It was obvious from panel and regional discussions [during the B.C. Broadband Conference] that we have within our grasp the ability to create reliable, cost-effective systems that are both essential and integral to our regional infrastructure development,” added Newell.

Since his report, the RDBN has hired a consultant to gather information about Internet connectivity in the region.

“His investigation into the current status for Internet in our region will identify underserved areas and deficiencies,” explained Newell. “As rural areas, Internet connectivity plays a vital role in providing education, health services, work opportunities, youth retention, safety and social interaction.”

“It is as the federal government has stated an essential service,” he added.



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