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Broadband: creating opportunity in our local rural lifestyle communities

There is a discussion brewing in many of our communities right now about the opportunity to access broadband. If your community is in the Columbia Basin catchment area like my home town of Rossland the conversation is likely taking place for you as well.

The Columbia Basin Trusts subsidiary Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation is offering an amazing opportunity to our communities by supporting the introduction of broadband infrastructure. Technicalities aside (and to be addressed in future articles) the potential for this level of service can put our communities on the map.

What does it mean for citizens? It can mean access to speed of download and uploading information from the internet that is hard to imagine. With the proposed fiber speed we could download two months of movies in seconds. Uploading our personal data quickly (example: latest family reunion photo album) and downloading data (example: movies) in seconds is great. If you own a business that relays online information regularly this is a time and money saver.

But the value to our community can be even greater than that.
It can offer incentive for individuals and organizations to relocate here.
I do the majority of my work online. I can be labelled as a remote/virtual or mobile worker meaning I can do my work anywhere I have an internet connection. I have many colleagues around the world who work like me. They work in remote beautiful locations and connect via the internet to access, edit and submit work. My question often is.. why aren’t there more of me here in the Kootenays?

Over 60% of IT workers can work remotely now. As a demographic they average earn over 75 thousand a year. What greener way could our region improve economic development than by attracting these workers to the Kootenays? No buildings, no environmental footprint. Just an individual and hopefully their family moving here with their wages ready to be spent on local services, real estate etc.

The access to world class open access high speed is also extremely attractive to companies who move large data. The key for any of these individuals or organizations to relocate here is in large part infrastructure. We have to be able to offer the world class connectivity. We could be inviting new media companies, software providers, consultants, educations firms etc. to move their operation to our area, enjoy the lifestyle, cost of living/operations and carry on their work.

Moving information at this speed also has amazing applications in education, health and other fields that stream and share high quantity of video and images. Satellite schools, diagnostics labs, collaborative centers that could benefit our communities with services and provide positive economic impact.

Can I guarantee if we build it they will come? No. It will take a smart strategy. But I can guarantee the opportunity is ripe and without the broadband infrastructure we cannot even get into the game.
It is my hope our community will be forward thinking and take this opportunity to learn more about the new ways the world is working and apply itself to being a part of this exciting new economy.