Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Northern Development Initiative Trust to facilitate funding program for Connecting BC Internet project

Premier John Horgan first made note of it last week and by Friday Citizens Services Minister Anne Kang had outlined the details for the latest funding towards the province's Connecting BC Program.

And now Northern Development Initiative Trust is ready to take applications towards the program to deliver on more reliable internet access to remote and rural areas of BC.

The path towards better connectivity in British Columbia was first noted on Wednesday during Premier John Horgan's press conference, where Mr. Horgan noted that the pandemic had served as a wake up call towards working to remove the challenges of accessing services on line.

"This ties in nicely with the announcement that we made around health delivery in rural and remote communities that the isolation, the distances of British Columbia are vast and they are made all the more vast when we think about the challenges of accessing services in a time of pandemic, so this has been a wake up call for all of us ... "

Friday Minister Kang provided some background to the province's plans, first through her own media briefing and followed up with an information statement.

With the Minister noting who the program is designed to serve.

“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. 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 focus of the program is put in place the infrastructure to make for a more secure and stable delivery platform for Internet services in rural or isolated communiteis.

Internet service providers throughout the province can apply for grants of up to $50,000 – or 90% of their expenses – to cover the cost of equipment, including antennas, electronics or other types of devices that relate to the performance or range of their network. 

These are types of network upgrades that can be completed quickly to significantly improve connectivity for people, rather than the traditional projects that usually require months or years to finish.

The application window is now open at NDIT, submissions will be reviewed on a first-come-first-served basis, with funding decisions made within three to five business days. Internet service providers must complete their projects by June 30, 2020.

 “We all have to work together to protect the health and safety of our families and neighbours. 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.” -- Joel McKay, CEO, Northern Development Initiative Trust. 

Learn more about the funding initiative here.

A wider overview of NDIT connectivity programs can be found here.

In what was surely an unintended example as to the challenges that rural and remote residents face, the actual Friday announcement suffered a few technical glitches along the way to delivery.

A situation that hopefully the new expanded funding program may serve to reduce or eliminate in the months and years to come.

For more notes related to communication themes in the Northwest see our archive page here.

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