Roads and telephone lines were once the primary means of communication for communities outside major centers. Today, the internet plays a major role in connecting people—but traditional issues, namely access and infrastructure in rural areas—persist.
Like the muddy gravel roads that once kept rural communities remote, internet service and access in many of these communities is rough.
The Peace River Regional District (PRRD) approved a bylaw that creates a service function for the board to both receive and requisition grants and funds for the provision, installation, and operation of broadband internet infrastructure in under- and unserved areas in the region.
Though the district has been developing plans to increase broadband connectivity across the district for years, the newest bylaw puts the wheels in motion at last by announcing a tax rate and an electoral assent process for that rate.
Citizens will get the opportunity to vote on this bylaw in five months. The General Local Government Election on October 15th, 2022, will include a question asking voters whether they accept the regional connectivity service at an annual tax requisition limit of $0.0234 per every $1000 on the taxable value of land and improvements.
Currently, areas of the regional district, especially rural and remote communities, are either unable to access broadband entirely or limited to low gigabyte limits or low speeds.
Increasing connectivity has been a direction the regional district has pursued for a few years.
Leonart Hiebert, Director of Electoral Area D (north of Dawson Creek), proposed at the May 2022 meeting to create a connectivity function for Area D. This was defeated and the proposal was expanded instead to include the entire district.
The region-wide broadband internet and mobility service function gives the regional district the ability to enter into agreements and partner with internet providers to apply for and provide grants. It would also provide the regional district resources required to manage and advance several broadband internet initiatives.
The importance of access for rural communities–and by extension, the purpose of this effort—was highlighted in a meeting on May 27th, 2021.
The regional district views broadband infrastructure as essential infrastructure and the resolutions read that “connectivity is essential to strengthen the social, economic, ecological and cultural resilience within the region.”