At the newly-constructed Tobacco Plains Administration and Health Building, internet levels barely support the basic needs of band employees. Basic modern business needs, such as video conference calls, are a challenge, while the service to homes is even slower and less consistent. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Tobacco Plains disconnected despite $2.9m internet project

Current internet levels barely support band members, basic business needs

A First Nations group is feeling disconnected despite a multimillion dollar high speed internet project underway in the South Country.

In March, the Province announced $1.4 million in grant funding for a Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC) project to install transport fiber between Jaffray and Roosville in South Country.

The South Country project involves more than 50 kilometres of fiber-optic infrastructure installed between Jaffray and Roosville at an estimated total cost of $2.9 million. CBBC hopes to activate their new fiber line by March 31, 2021.

(Look back: https://www.thefreepress.ca/news/jaffray-tobacco-plains-others-to-receive-high-speed-internet-upgrade)

However, the Tobacco Plains Indian Band says the project will require a large investment by the band before internet can reach homes in the community.

“While the Leadership of Tobacco Plains Indian Band supported the application and agree that the project is a good step in providing high-speed internet to the residents of Tobacco Plains and the residents of the South Country, the statements made omit the fact the scope of this project does not actually provide residents of Tobacco Plains, nor any other resident, with internet,” said the Chief and Council of the Tobacco Plains Indian Band in a statement.

“In fact, the project will require a large investment from the Tobacco Plains Indian Band to connect its citizens to this project in order to provide internet to homes in the community,” it continued.

The band is working to secure funding to complete the ‘last mile’ of the project in order to connect its community and said they truly hope similar efforts will be made on behalf of all South Country residents.

The Ministry of Citizens’ Services responded by saying that their project included the installation of transport fiber, which is a necessary first step when bringing high-speed internet to a rural community for the first time. They say this is required before final last mile connections can be made.

The Ministry further explained that there are several funding programs available to help support communities and service providers with project costs.

They added that in Budget 2019, the government announced a further $50 million investment in the Connecting British Columbia program, saying this will offer opportunities for remote and Indigenous communities to access funding for connectivity infrastructure planning, transport fiber and last mile projects.

In addition, they said another avenue for addressing last mile projects is to apply for funding through the All Nations Trust Company’s Pathways to Technology.

Housing and Infrastructure Department Manager for the Tobacco Plains Indian Band, Ryan Sarfeld, said the community is excited to see new investment in the South Country, which will allow them the opportunity to grow.

“The fiber project led by CBBC is a great start but we have a long journey still,” he said.

Sarfeld explained that the Tobacco Plains Indian Band is working with CBBC to ensure connection to their Administration and Health Building, and are also working diligently to connect all homes on Reserve.

At the newly-constructed Tobacco Plains Administration and Health Building, internet levels barely support the basic needs of band employees.

Basic modern business needs, such as video conference calls, are a challenge, while the service to homes is even slower and less consistent.

“We’re working to build a healthy, active community that can grow and prosper, and technology is a huge part of that,” said Sarfeld. “With fiber and the addition of new housing comes more business opportunities.”

“The previously released soundbite was very optimistic and hopefully it can be true,” said Sarfeld, adding that he hopes people will now have a better understanding the complexity of this project.

Just Posted

Driver of RV in Hosmer collision reported in stable condition

Collision occurred in Hosmer on September 5 and involved a semi truck, an RV and a school bus

Arts Station dumpsters beautify Fernie

The Arts Station dumpster art program and contest was a success in… Continue reading

New administrators for Elk Valley schools

Erin Hay promoted to principal for FSS, Ian Jarrell promoted to vice-principal for ESS

Burn rules loosen in Kootenays as weather eases fire concerns

Category 2 and 3 fires will be allowed in most areas — but know the regulations

Final year for Tears and Gears

Popular event holds happy memories for valley athletes

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Victoria father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Police investigate after intoxicated teens clash with security at B.C. fair

18-year-old woman arrested and RCMP looking at possible assault in Victoria-area fall fair incident

Most Read