Local Internet service providers have until November 10 to let a Columbia Basin Trust subsidiary know if they’re interested in teaming up to apply for federal dollars.
The government is inviting companies to seek funding under its Connecting Canadians program to extend or enhance broadband service in remote and rural areas. The $305 million fund is intended to bring high-speed Internet to 280,000 households.
“We want to help providers in this region do the technical and business planning necessary to submit a strong application,” Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation chief operating officer Aimee Ambrosone said after addressing the Regional District of Central Kootenay board last week. “They have to do a lot of work to show their projects are viable and will serve more rural households. We want to help them get ready for that.”
The government’s application deadline is January 12, with the first projects to be announced in the spring. Successful applicants can receive up to 50 per cent of project costs and will be expected to provide services at speeds of at least five megabits per second.
Ambrosone said they are considering submitting a co-ordinated regional application. In addition to matching funds from government, the Trust may potentially provide some money, although providers will still have to come up with the rest.
Columbia Basin Broadband has a fibre optic network across the region, but is hoping existing non and for-profit providers can help them reach a goal of making broadband available to 80 per cent of households who can’t access it now by 2016.
“They already have equipment and infrastructure, are providing service and have a good idea what areas are served, what areas aren’t, and where and how they should expand to provide better service,” Ambrosone said. “That’s why they’re integral. They’re hopefully the long-term service providers who continue to work with those households.”
Columbia Basin Broadband was created in 2011 to acquire the assets of the now-defunct Columbia Mountain Open Network.