Minister for Citizen Services and Open Government, Ben Stewart, today announced a $250,000 grant from the province of BC to help bring high speed internet to Cherryville.
“This project is another example of how the government of BC is making prudent fiscal investments to help reach its goal of bringing the benefits of today’s digital technology to all British Columbians by 2021.”
The total costs of the project are estimated at around $600,000. With Telus kicking in $300,000 and an additional $50,000 from the Southern Interior Development Trust, today’s announcement means that by the end of this year, over 1,000 area residents will finally have high speed internet access.
It’s been more than six years in the making for Cherryville’s Broadband/High-speed Internet Steering Committee.
Steering Committee Chair, Bobbi Fox, says she would have been enthused with any amount of money, but was completely overwhelmed by the province’s contribution. “We have been working very hard as a community since 2007. We have worked with all levels of government, local businesses, and service providers to get high speed internet for our residents.”
Back in 2011, the provincial government renewed its 2005 partnership with Telus by entering into the Connecting British Columbia Agreement. The purpose of the agreement was to enable affordable high-speed internet and cellular services for all residents of BC.
Since that time, the Regional District of North Okanagan has not been able to secure the funds needed for the internet and cellular infrastructure upgrade in Area E, the electoral district in which Cherryville falls.
Although some Cherryville residents have been able to access satellite internet service, Fox says the satellite option has not lived up to its promises. She adds, the satellite service isn’t cheap, which makes it inaccessible for some. “The people who need [high speed internet] most desperately are the ones who can’t afford it.”
In the meantime, most of the community has been making do with dial-up, a tool that we can probably all remember, but would rather forget.
For small and home-based businesses in the Cherryville area, which amount to around 24% of their labour force, this funding announcement could not have come any sooner. MLA for Vernon-Monashee, Eric Foster, put it simply. “This is really about economic development and business in Cherryville.”
North Okanagan Regional District Chair, Patrick Nicol, echoed MLA Foster’s sentiments, describing Cherryville’s business community as self starters, innovators, and risk takers, who needed this functional part of daily life to move forward. He added, “[Bringing internet service to the area] was simply the right thing to do.”