Cowichan Station, the Lake Cowichan area, Ditidaht First Nation, and Thetis and Penelakut Islands were identified as the most underserved in the region for internet and cellular connectivity.
After months of studies and surveys assessing the connectivity capabilities of different parts of the region, the Economic Development Division of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and the IBI Group have presented the first steps in developing a regional connectivity at a special meeting of the full committee on June 9.
Keith Ponton of IBI Group, said Thetis Island has the highest number of underserved premises of any community surveyed in the project, followed by Cowichan Station.
He said the Cowichan Lake area has pockets of some very underserved locals, especially along the north shore.
“Historically, the private sector has been the only investor in internet and cellular connectivity,” Ponton said.
“This has led to market failure, especially in sparsely populated places that are unable to afford the high cost of infrastructure.”
Ponton said that relying on private sector investment to improve connectivity is no longer a viable strategy, so municipalities and regional governments who planned to adopt a hands-off approach and hoped that sector organizations private would solve the connectivity problem will be disappointed.
“The luxury of that thinking is sadly gone,” he said.
“All levels of government are taking a fairly active role in taking positive steps to invest in and fund broadband infrastructure, and the federal government has committed significant amounts of money to it over the past two last years. This summer, we are also planning another round of provincial funding that will be allocated to broadband systems in underserved areas of British Columbia. »
Brittany Taylor, CVRD’s acting director of economic development, said the goal was to complete the regional strategy to deal with connectivity issues by early August.
She said areas with the worst connectivity will be prioritized for further investigation.
“We are planning a community tour in September where we will engage with each of these communities in person to determine their specific needs and aspirations, then develop a roadmap to improve connectivity for each,” Taylor said.
Lynne Smith, Director of Saltair/Gulf Islands, said she was very happy to see Thetis Islands and Penelakut at the top of the list.
“It’s often the first topic of discussion on the island of Thetis,” she said.