By Steve Hubrecht

Internet speeds at Panorama Mountain Resort should get faster soon.

The British Columbia Ministry of Citizens’ Services announced last week that it will give Telus a grant of $372,535 to bring fibre optic internet Panorama, with the aim of making connections there not only speedier, but also more reliable. 

The ministry outlined during the announcement that the move is being made to help local tourism businesses bounce back from the ravages of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think internet connectivity in rural communities is critical. I see broadband as an essential service. We have a lot of work to do, and this is part of that. There is definitely more to be done, but this is a piece of the piece of the puzzle,” Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F director Susan Clovechok, who is also a member of the Southeast B.C. Rural Connectivity Committee, told the Pioneer.

“Panorama is a world-class resort destination, drawing skiers and riders from around the globe to share an incredible mountain experience. Now, our community will also offer the best communication technology thanks to this grant from the B.C. government. The advanced connectivity that Telus is delivering as a result of this funding opens up greater opportunities for travel and utilizing smart technology as we work to quickly recover from the impacts of the pandemic and grow tourism in the Kootenay Rockies,” said Panorama chief executive officer Steve Paccagnan in a press release.

B.C. parliamentary secretary for rural development Roly Russell told the Pioneer that he wasn’t sure exactly when the work on fibre optic internet at Panorama would start, but that it would be finished and in place by Oct 31 by the latest.

In total, the service will reach 870 households at Panorama, he added. “The impact is huge, it’s an important investment.”

The upgrade will see internet speed at Panorama go from 50/10 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

“With a Gb internet speed, it’s hard to imagine what you can’t do with that, at the household level,” Russell told the Pioneer. “Some folks, with the 50/10 speed during the pandemic, if for instance, they have two kids at home doing homeschooling through videoconferencing and two adults both working from home online, they are finding the internet connection can be a bit choppy. The Gb speed would be more than enough to eliminate those issues.”

In the announcement, B.C. Minister of Citizens’ Services Lisa Beare said that as B.C. begins efforts to recuperate from the economic fallout of the pandemic, it makes sense to upgrade internet infrastructure.

“Improved internet access can help strengthen the recovery of tourism-based businesses and communities. These investments will make it easier for small businesses to market themselves, while adding an important amenity people can enjoy when visiting these beautiful communities,” said Beare.