By Kevin Nimmock

Pioneer Staff

Residents from remote communities across the Columbia Valley are about to get the chance to conveniently shop, learn, bank and communicate online.

Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks recently announced the Government of Canada will be providing $3.34 million to Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) to bring high-speed internet to 11,000 homes in southeastern B.C.

CBT is committed to bringing better broadband to the Columbia BasinBoundary region, and this funding is an important step forward in giving over 11,000 households the ability to participate fully in the digital world, said Neil Muth, CBT president and CEO.

The funding came as part of the Connecting Canadians program, which is set to provide 98 per cent of Canadian households in rural or remote areas with greater access to the online world. Brisco, Canal Flats, Edgewater, Fairmont, Spillimacheen, Wilmer and Windermere are among the communities that will be affected by the program.

Every rural area that will be getting service under this program has to go up to the federal minimum, which is five megabytes (download speed), said Aimee Ambrosone, the chief operating officer of the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, which is the sub-organization overseeing the program for CBT.

For reference, five megabytes is fast enough to comfortably browse the web and send emails, but would cause significant buffer times for services like popular streaming website Netflix, or video sharing site YouTube.

Ms. Ambrosone said the project will take two years to fully implement. In the summer of 2017, residents should be able to enjoy the internet their providers could not previously offer.

Telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas is really expensive to build, Ms. Ambrosone said. We have big mountains, so it costs a lot of money to put a tower on top of a mountain.

Last year, the CBT extended a region-wide request to service providers to work on a collaborative regional application for federal dollars. Twelve providers were chosen, ranging in size.

Some of them serve a sub-regional area, and others have a really small footprint, Ms. Ambrosone said. All of the service providers that we are working with… already have operational experience behind them and a track record of delivering service. Now they have the opportunity to expand their footprints a little bit in ways that make sense.

Ultimately, Ms. Ambrosone said the project is a big step towards reducing the technological gap between people in rural communities and urbanites.

Our rural citizens definitely need high-speed internet, Ms. Ambrosone said. So many services are based online in this day and age.