The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Regional Broadband Committee (RBC).
The RDKB is partnering with several other organizations including the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Regional District of East Kootenay, Ktunaxa Nation Council, Columbia Basin Trust and Columbia Power Corporation, in creating the Regional Broadband Committee to develop a regional broadband strategy.
“The partnership is to extend broadband high speed internet access to the whole region,” said Larry Gray, chair of the RDKB. “To do that, there’s a plan that’s being development by the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation to extend Fibre Optics to a number of communities in the region and use that as a basis either to build from a central location like Nelson or Trail to business communities and other through fibre connection or through wireless connection.”
The scope of involvement for the project includes: gathering and mapping baseline data outlining the existing level of service available and existing and planned ICT infrastructure across the region; recommending a definition of ‘suitable level of service’ for broadband capacity, reliability and cost to end consumer; analyzing the collected data to identify gaps in achieving a suitable level of service across the region; Identifying strategic measures and steps required to address identified gaps and opportunities; and supporting the RBC in establishing a common vision for regional broadband in the region and drafting a Columbia Basin/Boundary Regional Broadband strategy.
Broadband is already present in certain areas in the West Kootenay. Gray said the idea is to expand the broadband coverage although some rural areas will have to settle for wireless coverage due to cost and accessibility.
“There is a partnership agreement with Shaw and that would allow for more connections with other centres such as Grand Forks in the future,” he said.
Grand Forks has a free Wi-Fi network set up for the downtown core, although Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor, who sits on the RDCK board as well, says the two are not directly connected.
“We’ve got a fibre optic network in our community,” said Doug Allin, CAO of Grand Forks. “We’ve also got a fibre optic masterplan that were bringing to council. We’re actually looking at that right now – the ability for businesses to connect to that.”
Allin said the city owns it’s own fibre optic network in partnership with the school district and is looking. They city will be looking down the road at connecting with the Columbia Broadband plan.
“There’s also another component which involves other agencies,” he said. “So we want to explore that. We’ll be bringing it to council for their consideration.”