Broadband in Castlegar explained
This is the first of a four-part series that will describe what broadband is, what the potential is for rural communities as well as how and why Castlegar is exploring options around the development of high speed fibre optics broadband.
Part One: The Columbia Basin Trust, the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC) and Castlegar
In October 2013 the Castlegar City Council passed a motion to initiate a process to explore options regarding the development of a high speed broadband service for the local business community. At the same time, it formed a Broadband Advisory Committee comprised of community volunteers to explore the possibilities associated with the provision of broadband services in the City and report back to Council. Similar activities are taking place in Nelson, Trail, and Rossland.
For the purposes of these articles, broadband is defined as the ability to upload and download data, video, and voice at equivalent high speeds, consistently and reliably across a fibre optic network.
The City of Trail is in the process of accepting applications from its business community for broadband service . Rossland plans to connect its municipal buildings and downtown businesses, and Nelson has surveyed its business community and is in the process of determining their “next steps”.
All of these communities, including Castlegar, are working with the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation(CBBC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Columbia Basin Trust. Columbia Basin Trust recognizes that high speed internet plays a significant role in the Basin, and the ability of communities and rural areas to achieve their economic priorities and improve their quality of life. The CBT established the CBBC in 2011 as a wholly owned subsidiary. CBBC has fibre in the East and West Kootenay, and can provide a connection to these communities over its fibre “backbone”.
The communities can then create and connect their own community-based distribution networks to this backbone. The mission of the CBBC is to provide connectivity to a world class broadband network across the Columbia Basin.
In 2003/2004, the Province of British Columbia provided funding to create a fibre optic network throughout the School District 20 area to serve the needs of the school district and government services in both Trail and Castlegar.
Municipalities within the school district boundaries were invited to participate in the building of the network. Both Trail and Castlegar participated in that opportunity. Castlegar acquired fibre from the Industrial Park (south-end) to Brilliant (north-east) as well as out to the airport (east).
Even though the City of Castlegar was unable to move forward with the expansion of their fibre network in 2004, they did use it to create their own local network by connecting City Hall with Public Works, the Fire Hall and the Airport. Since then, Nelson has also built fibre, and Rossland plans to build fibre in 2014. .
In October of 2013 ,Castlegar City Council formed a Broadband Committee and tasked it to survey the business community of Castlegar to determine its needs regarding broadband services. The Committee also has been asked to reach out to inform the community about broadband and its potential impact on the economic, social, and cultural well being of the community. The survey to the businesses in Castlegar will be circulated in January 2014.
The decision to move forward, and to what degree, will be driven by the feedback from the survey regarding the broadband needs of businesses, including Internet access, the cost of connections for the City and the ability of the network to pay for itself through the delivery of these services to Castlegar businesses.
It is important to note that this network is an Open Access Network. It is defined as “open” because the network is created and owned independently from the services that are run on it. With this infrastructure in place, Internet service providers would be able to access the network and provide services over it.
Open Access Networks are being created in a variety of locations throughout North America and throughout the world. These networks can be viewed as essential parts of an infrastructure necessary for the continued and positive growth of communities such as Castlegar.
The importance of broadband to economic development is highlighted in the comments from Tammy Verigin-Burk, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce who said “When people with an interest in investing in Castlegar contact the Chamber they ask two main questions. One is about the availability of healthcare and access to a Doctor. The second is about the level and quality of telecommunications available to businesses.”
Access to high speed broadband is not about the future. It is about now. Rural communities like Castlegar have seen a loss in businesses, schools, families with children, healthcare and other government services over the past twenty years. Broadband networks can help reverse that trend. It won’t bring back all that has been lost, but it can provide an opportunity to help sustain a positive future for Castlegar both in terms of a way and a quality of life.