Raft River community in Clearwater to see internet upgrades

The installation is set to be completed early fall.

Clearwater will be one of three communities receiving connectivity upgrades in support of helping tourism.

Roughly 60 residences will be getting fibre-optic upgrades from Telus, with funding from the Ministry of Citizens’ Services Connecting British Columbia program, which aims to increase speed and reliability of the services available to people and local businesses in the area.

The affected area stems from Raft River Elementary to the end of Raft River Road. Telus will also bring fibre-optic internet to Panorama Mountain Resort and ABC Communications will improve speed and reliability of connections in Horsefly.

“Tourism sector businesses have been hit particularly hard over the last many months of this pandemic,” said Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen and parliamentary secretary for rural development. “Connectivity and expanding that service helps us provide some of those operators with some more potential to expand and develop their businesses and at the same time it’s a service to permanent residences as well, so it’s a win-win.”

Areas were chosen through an application basis with local governments. The announcement is part of B.C.’s $10 billion COVID-19 response, which includes StrongerBC: BC’s Economic Recovery Plan.

The upgrades are expected to be completed this fall, and Telus is looking to start selling activity late August, early September, and will be offering upload and download speeds up to 500 Mbps, said Steve Jenkins, general manager, Mascon cable.

“This will be a fibre-fed capability that will allow for faster internet speeds than what you’d be able to get, for example, over a SmartHub over our wireless network,” he added. “It far exceeds anything this area has had in terms of internet speeds, so the ability to increase their work from home, increase the access to education, health care, all those benefits are really what we’re wanting to promote and excited about.”

As far as installation goes, a small fibre cable, about the width of a pencil, will be added to existing telephone poles. From each of those distribution lines, said Jenkins, Telus will physically connect a cable drop to the home which then they would go out to and provide installation services, such as internet and television.

Telus will receive up to $95,557 for its work in Raft River and up to $372,535 for the Panorama Mountain Resort project. ABC Communications will receive $176,681 in funding for upgrades in Horsefly.

In September 2020, the province made its largest-ever contribution to the Connecting British Columbia program, with $90 million of new funding under the Stronger BC Economic Recovery Plan. Northern Development Initiative Trust has been the fund administrator for Connecting British Columbia since its start in 2015, and is a regionally-operated economic development funding corporation for central and northern B.C. It operates independently from government.

“It is an exciting time as travel restrictions ease around the province and we are beginning to see travellers and tourists alike,” said Joel McKay, CEO of Northern Development Initiative Trust, in a press release. “The addition of fibre-optic internet to both Raft River and Panorama, along with improved service in Horselfy, will benefit these communities and the economy overall as we continue to recover from the pandemic.”