The lack of high speed Internet has irked residents of Area A for quite some time, but fixing the issue might not be as easy as it sounds.
Many residents who live out of town have difficulty using their Internet to access things like Netflix, their e-mails, and web browsing.
While high speed Internet may not sound like such a big issue to some, it can mean not being able to access government and employment services online, which can have a large impact on some people’s lives.
“The lack of high speed Internet and cell coverage in Area A remains one of my biggest frustrations,” said Area A director Karen Cathcart.
There have been a number of federal government projects, like Connecting Canadians, that supported various neighbourhoods in Area A through higher Internet speeds through FlexiNET, but most of Area A remains without high speed Internet, relying on satellite Internet to provide service, which can be slow and unreliable.
The most recent government project, Connect to Innovate, identified $4.5 billion in funding requests around the province, with a provincial budget of $500 million, explained Cathcart.
“To say this is a huge issue in the province is an understatement,” Cathcart said.
Area A is the largest geographic area in the CSRD, so it cannot be an excuse anymore that the area does not have the population base to support the business for connecting residents, she said.
“Folks need to be able to connect for safety and security reasons first and foremost,” Cathcart explained. “Making sure our residents have access to the Internet for notices about floods and wildfires for example is a living right.”
Cathcart has been working with the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, which is a subsidiary of the Columbia Basin Trust, to try to move the Area A issues forward. Soon they will have a completed study for the Basin that identifies the Internet and cell issues the area experiences every day, Cathcart said.
“The study will go a long way to voice the needs in the rural communities,” she added. “Our CSRD chair sits on the regional broadband committee, so the connection is there.”
Cathcart has been busy trying to solve the issues that residents in the Area A face. She has spoken with ministers and advocated for higher speed Internet to connect the people in the area to important news and recreational web browsing.
“I continue to push this issue forward on behalf of our residents,” she said, adding that she also lives outside of town and faces these issues regularly.