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CSRD supports grant application for effort to improve internet speeds in the Shuswap

Regional district to clarify support comes without funding commitment
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The Columbia Shuswap Regional District agreed to provide a letter of support to the Shuswap Economic Development Society for a grant application for funding that will go towards improving internet speeds in underserved areas of the Shuswap. (File photo)

An organization looking to improve internet speeds in parts of the Shuswap has received the regional district’s support for a grant application, but no commitment to funding.

At its Feb. 16 meeting, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board received a letter from the Shuswap Economic Development Society (SEDS), requesting a letter of support from the regional district for an application to the British Columbia Connecting Communities grant, an $830 million funding initiative with a mandate to provide access to high-speed internet for all underserved homes and businesses in B.C. by 2027.

SEDS explained that improved broadband was identified as one of the top three priorities for the areas it serves: Electoral Areas C, G and F (South and North Shuswap), and Area D (Falkland, Silver Creek and area).

In June, SEDS hired the i-Valley Intelligent Community Association to undertake an internet speed test involving 16 communities. The test results revealed “subpar internet speeds throughout a significant portion of our communities.”

In October 2022, SEDS retained the services of i-Valley to complete a business plan to build a community broadband network to better service underserved areas and households.

SEDS asked only that the regional district provide a letter of support for its funding application to “provide high-speed broadband internet access to underserved areas and households identified within SEDS, CSRD service areas.”

Read more: Internet speed testing implemented in the CSRD

Read more: Internet speeds in Columbia-Shuswap region may be slower than federal data suggests

Area C director Marty Gibbons urged the board to support the request, but first shared some related concerns. Gibbons said he sits on the SEDS board, and has seen “a lot of misalignment between that group and this board.”

“I think there was almost an expectation that this board would underwrite millions of dollars for the creation of this entity that would provide this,” said Gibbons, “I had to have a very frank discussion with them to explain we’re happy to support this in principal, but there’s no sort of commitment that the board would provide funding…”

Gibbons estimated SEDS has spent about $80,000 to date on preparing related reports, as well as governance and financial models and, given the work done so far, he didn’t think it was right to not support the request. However, Gibbons reiterated he thought SEDS’ board has been unclear about what it really wants, “and when I had to start making some comments about it was unlikely we’d borrow seven million to fund this, it was almost kind of shock and awe in the look.”

CSRD chair Kevin Flynn and chief administrative officer John MacLean discussed sending the letter of support along with an additional letter stressing the first doesn’t represent any financial commitment from the board.

The board agreed to support both letters.



lachlan@saobserver.net
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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