A federal funding announcement to improve Internet access has prompted the Strathcona Regional District to expedite a feasibility process for broadband connectivity in its rural communities.
Improving broadband (high-speed Internet that is always on) access throughout the regional district has been a strategic priority of the regional board of directors for a few years.
Which is why the board, and in particular Quadra Director Jim Abram, was so thrilled when the federal government announced the Connect to Innovate (CTI) program which will help fund new back bone and last mile infrastructure in eligible communities that don’t have access to high-speed Internet.
“I have to say I was ecstatic when at UBCM (Union of B.C. Municipalities convention) I was informed of this,” Abram said at last week’s Wednesday regional board meeting. “This is just incredible this is actually happening.”
Victoria Smith, the regional district’s special projects and sustainability manager, said corporation has been planning to develop a regional broadband strategy to better understand the challenges of delivering broadband and potential connectivity issues. Smith said the CTI funding announcement means the regional district must now expedite work on that strategy if it wants to be in a position to be able to put forward a project application prior to the funding deadline.
“It is now recommended that the regional district proceed initially with a more focused approach in order to attempt to develop a suitable project(s) in time to lead an application under the Connect to Innovate funding program which closes March 13, 2017,” Smith said. “It is not clear whether there will be any future intakes to this program.”
Smith said the regional district has engaged a consultant with expertise in broadband planning to identify eligible partnerships and technological solutions. She added that regional projects will be prioritized based on the following criteria:
- Targets an eligible community as identified by the federal government for new backbone projects and/or last mile infrastructure.
- Identification, experience and readiness of partners (i.e. Internet service providers, First Nations, other local governments).
- Ability of partners to contribute funding.
- Feasibility and cost of technical solution.
- Size of community.
- Greatest public benefit (i.e. ability to increase access to telehealth or education) and identified community need as demonstrated through an Official Community Plan or other documentation.