Columbia Basin Trust has successfully added 60 kilometres of high-speed fibre optic cable to its broadband network in the South Country, between Jaffray and Roosville. Internet service providers can now connect to this regional backbone, receive a higher-quality connection, and in turn improve the services they offer to customers.

“Affordable, reliable and high-speed internet connectivity is no longer a luxury; it is a basic requirement to access information and services in today’s world,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President and Chief Executive Officer, Columbia Basin Trust. “Too many Basin communities continue to struggle with inadequate connectivity, and residents have clearly stated a need to improve their services to the same level as that offered in more populated areas. This project provides the necessary backbone infrastructure for internet service providers to offer a considerably higher level of service to residents and businesses in the South Country.”

The broadband network is a linked series of fibre optic cables, located both above- and below-ground, that transfer information at high speed and volume. The new cable runs between Jaffray and the United States border at Roosville, including Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it, Grasmere and Baynes Lake, plus an additional branch to Kragmont.

“Everyone needs reliable, high-speed internet to stay connected and access vital services they count on—especially in rural, remote and Indigenous communities,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Minister Responsible for Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Power Corporation and the Columbia River Treaty, and MLA for Kootenay West. “This project to expand internet access in the South Country will unlock a world of economic, employment and educational opportunities for people in these communities to succeed and contribute to the continued success of our Province.”

The South Country project cost a total of $2.8 million. This includes over $1 million in funding from the Trust and $420,000 from the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK). The project also received $1.4 million through the Connecting British Columbia program, funded by the Province and administered by the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

“The installation of high-speed fibre optic cable in the South Country will create strengthened social, business and educational connections for those living in the communities of Baynes Lake, Grasmere, Roosville, Kragmont and Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it,” said Joel McKay, Chief Executive Officer, Northern Development Initiative Trust. “As administrator of the Connecting British Columbia program, we are pleased to see another project benefit rural, remote and Indigenous communities.”

“The RDEK is dedicated to supporting the needs of all our residents and if we want them to continue to thrive in our area, reliable high-speed internet is an absolute necessity. We were glad to be able to provide $420,000 from our Community Works Fund grant to support this important project,” said Rob Gay, Chair of the RDEK Board.

Gay is also Chair of the Southeastern BC Regional Connectivity Committee, a partnership between the Trust; regional districts of Central Kootenay, Columbia Shuswap, East Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary; Ktunaxa Nation; and Village of Valemount. It has created a strategy to enable world-class connectivity for the region and is moving forward on implementing it, such as through the South Country project. “The completion of this project brings the Regional Connectivity Committee’s vision of bringing equitable, affordable high-speed services throughout the region to life,” Gay said. “By making large strides like this, we are ensuring the growth of rural economic development and sustainable, healthy communities.”

Tough Country Communications is an internet service provider that has linked its network to the new section. One of its customers, Janet Williamson, keeps a home in Kragmont, working as a remote pharmacist while her husband stays connected to his environmental companies in Calgary and Edmonton. With the updated connection, “We’ve been able to pretty much do anything we need without a worry,” she says. Multiple family members can do various online activities at the same time. “It’s been great.”

In addition, the Trust is nearing completion of a 125-km expansion of its network in the Slocan Valley, to just north of Nakusp. There are two additional projects on the go, which will add approximately 100 km total: between Fruitvale and Nelson and between Kimberley and Wasa. Once all these sections are complete, the Trust’s backbone will be 1,285 km long.

Learn more about the Trust’s work to increase high-speed connectivity at ourtrust.org/connectivity.

Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit ourtrust.org or call 1.800.505.8998.

PHOTO: Columbia Basin Trust has finished installing high-speed fibre optic cable in the South Country. Visiting the Point of Presence at the Jaffray Fire Hall are from left to right: Rob Gay, Chair of the RDEK Board and Chair of the Regional Connectivity Committee; Aimee Ambrosone, Columbia Basin Trust Executive Director, Delivery of Benefits, Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, Vice President; Rory Bruce, Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, Manager, Projects and Infrastructure; and Stan Doehle, RDEK Area B Director.

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