Telus casts broadband to remote west

Rural communities in B.C. will soon be online as a result of apartnership between Telus Corp. and the province of BritishColumbia to provide access to high-speed Internet and expandbroadband service.

Under the Connecting Communities Agreement (CCA), 119 ruralcommunities will be connected. The CCA also ensures residents havethe necessary support to connect their homes and businesses.

Telus is investing $110 million in the project and will partnerlocal Internet Service Providers (ISPs), to date 20 of which havebeen selected for 31 of the 119 communities.

The government is not subsidizing the CCA, but there will be noadditional cost to taxpayers. Telus has agreed to provide the ISPswith connection to a high-speed access point at a competitive cost.

Matthew Heffernan, managing director of sales for Telus B.C., saysthe partnership with the province arose out of a mutual desire toimprove connectivity.

The driver (for the project) was to bridge the digital divide inBritish Columbia, so that regardless of location, people couldshare the same access to technology,” says Heffernan.

Telus wants to have the service up and running by the end of 2006.Hefferman says the partnership with local ISPs was the result ofTelus wanting to provide access to its infrastructure withoutdisrupting or becoming a competitive threat to existing serviceproviders.

Jamie Sterritt is president and owner of Sa’hetxw (pronouncedSa-het) Consulting, a First Nations technology company operatingout of Hazelton, B.C. Sterritt will be working with Telus solely onthe CCA project, as a liaison between the communities, ISPs, Telusand Network B.C.

“My role since the start has been to ensure the community’squestions and concerns are answered.” says Sterritt.

He says his passion does lie with the First Nations because of hisheritage, but that he is working with all communities at thispoint, not just those that are First Nations. John Webb, directorof communities and communications, Ministry of Labour and Citizens’Services, says this much-needed service will mean improvedaccessibility to healthcare and education, especially for FirstNations residents.

“About one-third of the First Nations community in Canada lives inB.C, and they’re often very isolated,” says Webb. “Just to see adoctor often means long, arduous travel by float plane, so there’sgoing to be an obvious advantage there in receiving thoseservices.”

Webb says having high-speed communication in these communities willgive users more of an opportunity to continue their education.

“To transform into a more modern economy, this is absolutelyessential,” he says. “Wthout it, I expect a number of thesecommunities would wither over a period of years, as young peoplemove away for job opportunities.”

Heffernan says Telus will be upgrading its existing infrastructurein a number of locations, which presents a simpler technical task.“

In many other communities we’re putting in new infrastructure, andwith that comes all the geographical challenges in the province,”he says.

Sterritt believes his involvement brings a more personal level tothe project, a notion that’s been confirmed by the feedback he’sreceived from both Telus and the community.

“These communities and their members are genuine and have chosenwhere they live and the lives that they have.

“Broadband should be available to them just as easily as in themore urban centres,” says Sterrit.

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