Rural internet input wanted

The province’s goal is to connect all rural residents and businesses with high-speed internet within 10 years.

If your experience with high-speed internet or cellular coverage within the region has left you disappointed, the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) wants to hear from you.

In 2011, Telus and the province of B.C. signed the Connecting British Columbia Agreement (CBCA). The province’s goal is to connect all rural residents and businesses with high-speed internet within 10 years, and to expand cellular coverage along 1700 kms of currently unserviced highways within five years.

Since signing the agreement in 2011, approximately 455 kms of new highway coverage has been introduced, including highway cell service in or near New Hazelton, Prince Rupert, Dawson Creek, Chetwynd and Fort Nelson.

In return, Telus gets a 10-year, non-exclusive, contract with the province for long distance, cellular, conferencing, and other voice and data services. The contract includes the six B.C. health authorities, B.C. Hydro, WorkSafe B.C., the Insurance Corporation of B.C. and the B.C. Lottery Corporation.

Because the upgrades and expansion of services are contractually obligated under the agreement, the RDBN wants to ensure that Telus is fulfilling its end of the agreement in a timely manner.

According to the province, 93 per cent of British Columbians currently have high-speed internet access. Through the CBCA, a target of 97 per cent connectivity is anticipated within 10 years.

But that small percentage of the province that does not have access to broadband or reliable cellular coverage is overly represented by rural residents.

“There’s a feeling that there are still large areas within the regional district that are not being addressed,” said Wendy Wainwright, executive assistant with the RDBN.

Wainwright is overseeing the collection of data on the RDBN website.

“I’m trying to find out exactly where within the regional district we have cell phone coverage,” she said. “We’re collecting information to bring to Telus.”

The online form asks you to indicate whether or not you have internet and/or cellular service. There is a separate comment area.

“Put information regarding poor service into the comment area,” Wainwright said. “Indicate if you have service but your service is limited.”

The potential irony of using an online form to track internet access isn’t lost on the RDBN. You can call the RDBN offices toll-free at 1-800-320-3339 and your information will be entered into the database.

If you do have internet access, you can find the form at http://www.rdbn.bc.ca/148-media-releases/251-high-speed-internet-and-cell-phone-access.