Municipal-run internet service plan takes step forward

Municipal-run internet plan?

A consortium of villages in the Slocan and Arrow Lakes Valleys are moving ahead with plans to see if they can set up their own municipal internet service when the fibre-optic project up the Slocan Valley is completed.

“The philosophy underpinning this whole thing is this is something the community can do themselves quite easily, and there are lots of advantages to it,” said Silverton Mayor Colin Ferguson in a report to council May 11. Ferguson is sitting on a committee of valley politicians exploring the concept.

Ferguson said the Villages – Nakusp, New Denver, Silverton and Slocan – have been busy recently, applying to the federal and provincial governments for funding for the project. Getting the ‘Request to Participate’ proposal completed was a big job, he said.

“It was a large amount of effort, non-stop for three days, but we did get it in,” said Ferguson. “We had to get in a fairly detailed plan of what we want to do, and show we have support from the communities.”

Now they’ve got themselves in line for funding when it’s ready to be handed out, they are preparing their next steps – building the operational plan, the business plan, and costing out the project. They have to research just how and where the ‘last mile’ fibre-optic line would run and cost out the materials and labour to install it.

That work should be done by the middle of June, he said.

“We’re still working on a lot of stuff, but we’re pretty confident we will have a pretty convincing plan to present to the next step, in June,” he said.

The Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, part of the Columbia Basin Trust, is installing a 120-km high-speed fibre-optic line from Playmor Junction in the south to just past Nakusp in the north. But while that project is nearly complete, much work remains on how to get the line connected to hundreds of individual homes scattered across the valley. One idea is to have this ‘last mile’ portion of the project implemented by the Villages, which could provide affordable internet to their communities.

Ferguson noted the municipal politicians were not technical experts, and the group was relying on local consultants and technicians to advise them – something Councillor Leah Main said was a big advantage to the project.

“The consultant is contributing his time and expertise for no fee, and the technical workers on the working committees are doing this as volunteers,” said Main, who also sits on the committee. “So this is not costing the Village of Silverton—or Slocan, New Denver or Nakusp – any money. It’s an amazing effort.”

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