High-speed internet coming to over 100 coastal B.C. communities

Q&A: Why B.C.'s tech sector must embrace reconciliation

People who live up and down the B.C. coast and on Vancouver Island will soon have access to much faster internet. 

The provincial and federal government announced joint funding of $45.4 million to provide 154 areas with new or upgraded high-speed internet. 

"Backbone networks are like digital highways that move data in and out of communities, and the data highways are essential for schools, hospitals, clinics, libraries and other businesses," said Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott.

"We want everyone to have fair and reliable access to high-speed internet in British Columbia."

The funding will go to two companies that will create 3.5 million metres of fibre-optic cable, spanning from Prince Rupert, B.C., to the Victoria region, affecting small communities in the North Coast, Kitimat-Stikine, Central Coast, Sunshine Coast and Powell River regional districts, along with all of Vancouver Island.  

The government says 44 First Nations will benefit from the new cable lines, including those living on Haida Gwaii.

"Slow, unreliable internet is a fact of life," said Peter Lantin, president of the Haida Nation.

"Coders, designers, artists, accountants, linguists, small business people can now reach a global audience. Young people can really think about staying in our communities with a full and stimulating livelihood." 

One of those excited coders is Ryan Barber, a software developer and director of the Haida Gwaii Radio Society, an online-only station that broadcasts "occasionally."

"I think I represent the leading edge of a new workforce up here," he said. "This is a really big deal for us."

He predicts the change will make life on Haida Gwaii more attractive for other people in the technology industry who can work anywhere, as long as there's an internet connection.

The provincial government says the project is expected to be completed in 2021. 

With files from Andrew Kurjata