CityWest, the Prince Rupert-owned communication corporation, is to receive $10.3 million to provide improved internet connectivity for six coastal community projects. The funding is from the Connecting British Columbia program, the Ministry of Citizens’ Services announced on March 26, in a media release.
Coastal community leaders are applauding the move so communities can be transformed and move forward.
“B.C. has many coastal communities that can only be accessed by boat. Having a reliable, high-speed internet connection can make all the difference for people when working remotely and attending school,” Jennifer Rice MLA for the North Coast said. “The coming improvements to coastal connectivity will make a huge difference in peoples’ lives while providing an important public amenity that can be vital for emergency response and public safety.”
Stefan Woloszyn, CEO of CityWest stated that they heard from community leaders about how connectivity is critical to foster growth in the digital economy and navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
First Nations communities along the coast hold the keys to transforming B.C.’s economic and well-being future as they become connected to the ever-growing digital opportunities, Christine Smith-Martin, executive director, Coastal First Nations said.
“There is a wealth of cultural wisdom, prosperity and world-renowned stewardship leadership that will accelerate our member Nations’ collective vision in building a conservation economy while protecting our environment,” she said. “As ‘connected Nations,’ we look forward to working with the Province to create a better future for our next seven generations.”
“This project is an example of how when we work together, anything is possible. Connectivity is the key to our village’s success as we move forward building a healthier and more economically resilient environment for people to call home,” Kris Olsen, mayor, Village of Queen Charlotte said.
The Province of British Columbia program is administered by Northern Development Trust to fund infrastructure projects required to deliver high-speed internet connectivity to rural and remote areas of the province.
Communities benefitting from the projects will be the Village of Queen Charlotte, Skidegate, Masset, and Bella Coola among others.
“We’re thrilled to be part of this opportunity to expand into some significantly underserved areas of the province, many of which will be hooked into our new undersea fibre Connected Coast project,” Woloszyn said.
CityWest is also a proponent behind Connected Coast Network, a $45.4-million investment in coastal connectivity funded in part by the Connecting British Columbia program. This project will bring a fibre-optic connection to coastal communities on Haida Gwaii, Vancouver Island and between Prince Rupert and Vancouver.
Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services said improvements to internet access will begin to arrive this year and will unlock opportunities for people, families and workplaces in coastal areas.
“We’re rolling up our sleeves and joining with communities, First Nations and service providers to usher in a new age of connectivity along B.C.’s stunning coastline,” Beare said. “Connectivity brings the world to our doorsteps. Together, we can ensure people in coastal communities have the internet access they need.”
The Connecting British Columbia program was expended in Sept.2020 with a $90 million infusion to promote investment in broadband and cellular infrastructure to benefit people rural and Indigenous communities throughout the province.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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