Communities in northern B.C. are becoming more connected after ABC Communications completed a three-year project.
ABC Communications, which is one of British Columbia’s largest privately-held Internet service providers, recently completed the Future is Now Project, deploying fixed 4G LTE Internet services to many rural communities in B.C.
The project, led by Falko Kadenbach, vice-president of ABC Communications, was made possible with the support of the Government of Canada, through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; the Province of British Columbia, through Northern Development Initiative Trust; and ABC Communications.
Vanderhoof mayor, Gerry Thiessen said it’s great news for Vanderhoof as the District is one of the communities that received network improvement.
“Anytime you get enhancement of internet capabilites it’s huge for Vanderhoof… To us it’s incredibly important for not only attracting businesses and families to our communities but also for the youth of our community to have the same opportunities that other youth do in the rest of the province,” he said.
Kadenbach says ABC Communications was able to bring forward expanded network coverage, but, first and foremost, they were able to advance technology in these communities by replacing fixed wireless with fourth-generation LTE technology, which allowed them to expand to a much higher bandwidth.
“The social and economic development capacity of these communities grows with the connectivity,” said Kadenbach.
The Future is Now Project was started in the fall of 2015 and was completed in 2018, providing network improvements to numerous B.C. communities, including Burns Lake, Cluculz Lake, Tache, Yekooche, Fraser Lake, Vanderhoof, Lac La Hache, 92 Mile, Bridge Lake, Green Lake, Horsefly, Quesnel, McLeese Lake, Dugan Lake, Sheridan Lake, Lone Butte, 100 Mile House, Horse Lake, Gateway, Canim Lake, Bear Lake, Hixon, Prince George, Beaverdell, Rock Creek, Lumby, Little Fort, Copper Creek and Walhachin.
Kadenbach believes one of the big benefits of this new technology is it opens doors for people to live in these small, rural communities and work remotely. People who are working in the city can move out to the country but stay connected with tools such as videoconferencing.
“This type of connectivity and service really allows for that and facilitates that,” said Kadenbach.
Kadenbach says outside of the positive impacts increased connectivity can have on working life, it also benefits people in their downtime, as there has been a subtle shift for entertainment, where people are moving away from cable television to online services such as Netflix or video-on-demand services from broadcasters such as CBC.
“It’s a great form of news and entertainment, and also during the daylight hours, it’s a very integral part of connecting people to people and businesses to people,” he said.
The project criteria set by the federal government at the time the Future is Now Project began was to supply 5 Mbps services to these communities.
However, ABC Communications committed to supply up to 15 Mbps as part of its project scope. Since then, ABC has expanded services in many of these communities to 25 Mbps because of the scalability of the LTE systems they installed as part of this project.
“By bridging the digital divide, we drive change in our rural communities and create equal opportunities for those choosing to live in rural parts of B.C.,” Brian Coakley, former Cariboo Regional District vice-chair and Electoral Area L director, said in a press release. “I am excited to see projects like this moving forward in the Cariboo, particularly in my own electoral area, and adding value to our local businesses.”
Joel McKay, CEO of Northern Development Initiative Trust, says the enhanced connections will be beneficial.
“Reliable Internet is so intertwined in day-to-day life that it is a necessary tool for people and their businesses to participate in the digital economy,” he said in the press release.
“These improvements will greatly benefit regional economies and emergency services. Northern Development is eager to see the positive effects of these infrastructure upgrades on individuals, communities and businesses throughout B.C.”
“Reliable high-speed Internet access has become as important to our cities and towns as the roads that connect them,” added Jinny Sims, minister of Citizens’ Services.
“We’re working with local Internet service providers like ABC Communications and other partners to expand connectivity in B.C.’s rural and Indigenous communities in order to grow the economy and improve services such as education, health care and emergency response.”
Kadenbach says the next challenge for ABC Communications, which is celebrating 30 years in business in 2019, is to reach the new 50 Mbps targets set by the federal government by 2021.
“The speed at which telecommunications companies are investing in their networks to supply the ever-increasing consumption of bandwidth is significant and only possible in rural and remote markets through the continuous commitment by the provincial and federal government to bridge the digital divide in Canada,” he said.