Victoria Smith, SRD manager of strategic initiatives, says the regional district is hosting “last-mile” broadband connectivity planning sessions in communities in June. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

Strathcona Regional District takes next step with Connected Coast community sessions

Sessions will allow communities to identify their needs for ‘last-mile’ broadband projects

The Strathcona Regional District is heading out on the road to hear from communities about how they can take advantage of better Internet connectivity.

As part of the Connected Coast project, the SRD will be holding presentations and workshops in community around the region in June.

“We are excited to be rolling this out over the next month or so,” SRD manager of strategic initiatives Victoria Smith told the board at the May 22 meeting.

For the Connected Coast project, the SRD will see high-speed Internet expand to a number of rural or remote communities through the laying undersea fibre optic cable. This covers the “backbone” projects, but there will also be “last-mile” projects aimed at Internet providers on how the backbone or infrastructure can improve service for customers that live outside urban centres through connecting to the fibre.

“That will bring new and/or improved high-speed capacity connectivity to many, many communities,” Smith said. “We need these communities to be ready to leverage this investment.”

The project is funded through the $750 million Broadband Fund over the next five years aimed at improving service in under-served communities and attracting investment.

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The SRD has an agreement with the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) for funding the planning process with communities in the region. The maximum cost for the planning process is $60,000 and will be split between ICET and the SRD. At the meeting, the board later approved a motion to execute the contribution agreement with ICET.

Part of the aim of the planning sessions is to provide information for residents about the broadband but also to determine how these communities want to use the infrastructure. Examples Smith cited include improved tele-health, educational opportunities or library outputs. Discussions could also include topics such as towers or hooking up residents to fibre.

“We want to hear those up front,” Smith said.

Through the planning sessions, the communities can identify their needs for the infrastructure and how this might change the network architecture of what each place needs.

“The output will be eight community broadband plans for SRD communities,” Smith said, adding these will help communities show what they need to leverage further funding opportunities for infrastructure. “It gives them a supporting document…. We want better informed communities.”

The sessions will start next week, with others taking place during the middle of June:

Monday, June 3 – Kyuquot Inn, Java Hut from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Tuesday, June 4 – Zeballos Community Hall from 4 to 6 p.m.

Wednesday, June 5 – Sayward Heritage Hall from 4 to 6 p.m.

Thursday, June 6 – Quadra Island Community Centre from 7 to 9 p.m.

Monday, June 17 – Tahsis Recreation Centre, Gym from 4 to 6 p.m.

Tuesday, June 18 – Gold River Sports Centre, Arena Lounge from 4 to 6 p.m.

Wednesday, June 19 – Cortes Island, Mansons Hall from 4 to 6 p.m.

An event for Area D south of Campbell River has not been finalized but is tentatively planned for September.

Space is limited for the sessions, so anyone interested should contact the SRD at 1-877-830-2990, ext. 6724 or email rsvp@srd.ca.