The complaints of Ryder Lake residents fed up with sluggish internet service have found the ear of a B.C. government minister.
Dozens of people living in the rural community signed a pair of open letters to civic, provincial and federal leaders hoping to draw attention to a problem they say impacts students enrolled in online learning and people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On July 30, one of the people leading the effort, Andy Harrington, got a reply from the office of Anne Kang, the Minister of Citizens’ Services.
“The Province recognizes the importance of high-speed internet connectivity and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical need to expand internet access to underserved households and communities in B.C.,” Kang wrote.
While the minister claims awareness of the issue, she also indicated the provincial government is limited in what it can do.
“In Canada, telecommunications companies are regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC),” she noted. “The province cannot, therefore, direct service providers on where to make their infrastructure investments.”
Kang said ministry staff reached out to Telus to see if the company has any plans to upgrade internet infrastructure in Ryder Lake. They were told there was nothing immediate. In 2018, Telus looked into the possibility of a fibre build in the community, but the project wasn’t economically viable.
In her letter, Kang said help may eventually come in the form of the federal government’s new $1.7 billion Universal Broadband Fund, which is meant to support rural connectivity.
Communicating Kang’s response to other Ryder Lake residents, Harrington said it’s frustrating to not yet have a solution, but encouraging that the issue is on her radar. Her response was also copied to B.C. Premier John Horgan.
“The key is to raise awareness of the issue, which I believe will be helpful in the future as rural connectivity rises up the agenda of both provincial and federal government,” Harrington said.
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