During a time when people are spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and may need stable internet access, the Provincial Government has stepped in to give rural, remote and Indigenous communities in B.C. access to faster internet.
The $50-million project, dubbed Connecting British Columbia, will include dedicated funding to help internet service providers (ISPs) with network equipment upgrades to improve internet speed and capacity in underserviced communities through the province.
“People working from home, students learning remotely and families practising physical distancing all need to know they can depend on internet access during this public-health emergency,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “Responding to the pandemic requires the best from all of us. Our communities need reliable internet access right now, and this new fund will get projects completed quickly.”
The Province said with more people staying at home, demand on networks has increased, which can sometimes lead to slowdowns or outages in some cases.
Funding from the Provincial Government will aim to enable ISPs to upgrade their infrastructure and better support for people who count on reliable internet services.
“The British Columbia Broadband Association (BCBA) really appreciates the effort to provide immediate assistance to internet service providers as they work to upgrade networks serving people during this public health emergency,” said Bob Allen, BCBA President. “Our members are excited to deliver new projects by the end of June that will provide immediate improvements to high-speed internet services for people.”
Individual ISPs may apply for grants for up to $50,000 or 90% of their expenses, to cover costs of equipment such as antennas, electronics, or other devices.
“We all have to work together to protect the health and safety of our families and neighbours,” said Joel McKay, CEO, Northern Development Initiative Trust. “Immediate investments in network upgrades can help ensure that people have the reliable internet access they need, not just to work and study from home, but to keep in touch remotely with friends and family during this challenging time.”
Locally the Columbia Basin Trust said that it would also help expand access to high-speed internet access to those that may need it.
The B.C. government said that submissions will be taken on a first-come-first-serve basis, and projects must be completed by June 30th of this year.
More: CBT Expands Eligibility for COVID-19 Supports (April 23, 2020)