Trust seeks true measure of internet speeds in valley towns

·3 min read

The Columbia Basin Trust wants residents of some Valley communities to let it know how fast their internet connection is – and it needs the information as soon as possible.

But so far, the response to the Trust’s request has been “very low.”

The CBT is calling on residents of five Slocan Valley communities to take part in a speed test before the end of the month.

The goal is to gather information for an appeal of a federal assessment that the internet service is fast enough in Nakusp, Rosebery, New Denver, Silverton and Slocan.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of support for completing the high-speed internet project may be at stake.

“The Trust is submitting an application to the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund to support ‘last mile’ projects in the Basin,” says Delphi Hoodicoff, a spokesperson for the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation. “The federal government determines eligibility based on the connectivity data found on their map.

“So if a community is deemed to have access to 50/10 [the federal standard for up/down connection speed], then it doesn’t qualify.”

While large areas of the Slocan Valley don’t meet the federal 50/10 connection threshold, Ottawa’s maps say those five communities do have adequate service, and thus won’t qualify for funding support for connecting from the main trunk line to individual homes.

“But what we’ve heard from residents is that they are still not getting adequate connectivity,” says Hoodicoff. “… but it’s up to us to prove that, hence the request to residents to conduct a speed test.”

Deadline looms for survey

But time is running out. To meet an appeal deadline, the Trust is asking residents of those five communities to test their internet speeds at the RDCK website, ourtrust.org/speedtest. You have until January 31.

“We definitely want to take advantage of any government programs that will provide funding for connectivity projects,” says Hoodicoff. “Connectivity projects are expensive and require more funding than the Trust and local communities can bring forward.”

However, the CBBC can only make the appeal if they get a survey response from 20% of the residents in the area. So far, she says they’re not getting a good response.

“The good news is over 3,800 speed tests have been done in the Basin! This data will be useful for us,” Hoodicoff says. “Unfortunately, only a small number of tests met the criteria.

“Folks who live in that specific area that’s in dispute, they need to complete the test and they need to fill out the form giving their internet package info.”

Split applications

The snag created by the federal map has the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation splitting the funding request into two parts.

“In order to increase our likelihood of success, the Trust will be putting forward an application that includes communities that are definitely eligible,” she says. “We will put in a second application with the communities currently deemed ineligible, along with supporting data to dispute the current mapping information.”

But it may be an uphill battle to get the money, even if the CBT can bring a successful argument to the table.

“The federal program is already oversubscribed and the Trust’s application may not be successful,” says Hoodicoff. “We would need to continue to work with communities and the Southeastern BC Regional Broadband Committee to look at other options for funding these projects.”

The Slocan Valley Fibre Optic Project was announced in March 2019, and envisions a $10.2 million high-speed cable line from just north of Nakusp to the Playmor Junction. The project’s seen delays due to licencing complications, but officials hope to start laying cable later this year. The completion for the main trunk is scheduled for mid-2022, but connecting the line to individual homes may take several years beyond that.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice