The board of directors of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako discuss the new Broadband and Connectivity Committee on Aug. 15. (Blair McBride photo)

New RDBN panel to explore better internet connectivity

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) has formed a new committee to help bring better internet connectivity to the region.

Members of the RDBN’s board of directors agreed at their Aug. 15 to the formation of the Broadband and Connectivity Committee.

The new panel is guided by the vision that “all citizens in the RDBN will have access to high speed internet,” according to a district memorandum.

Among its tasks are researching projects to enhance cell phone and internet connectivity, recommending those projects to the board, consulting with the public and preparing grant applications for better connectivity.

Michael Riis-Christianson, Electoral Area B Director, will chair the group and Directors Tom Greenaway and Mark Parker of Areas C and D, respectively, will serve as committee members.

The committee doesn’t have a specific budget at the moment.

Commenting on the new panel, Rob Newell, Director of Electoral Area G said that while he supports the move, he hopes the group will grow into something bigger.

“We’ve been working on [connectivity] for seven years but we’ve been spinning our wheels because we don’t have that kind of knowledge,” he said.

“Good communications has a socioeconomic impact that goes beyond what we can imagine at this point. If we can get first rate broadband into this area, good cellphone coverage – people aren’t going to go somewhere else, they’re going to come here. We need a web coordinator on staff who can move this thing forward.”

The committee’s formation follows a year of focussed efforts by the RDBN on improving internet services.

In July, the district approved $100,000 to spend on an application for a multi-million dollar internet grant program.

READ MORE: RDBN budgets $100,000 for internet application grant

The Invermere-based TANEx Engineering on July 15 completed a $27,500 study on broadband services for the district.

In January, the board explored a $42 million internet expansion project. It was however, put on hold for the time being.

LOOK BACK: $42M fibre internet expansion bid needs more study, RDBN says

And last year, Sandbox Systems did the “Better Broadband for the RDBN” study, which recommended building a fibre internet backbone from Prince George to Smithers. It cost $25,000.

The first meeting of the Broadband and Connectivity Committee will be held on Aug. 29.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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