Columbia Basin Trust wants to expand Internet into Creston Valley

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  • Apr. 3, 2012 10:00 a.m.

Through its Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, the Columbia Basin Trust wants to provide the Internet throughout the region by means of an open access broadband network, CBT chief operating officer Mark Halwa told Creston town council at its regular March 27 meeting.

With about a half-dozen interested parties in the audience, Halwa made a presentation that outlined the CBT’s plans for creating a network, which would allow both large providers, such as Telus and Shaw, and local service providers to offer customers a 100-megabit/second connection.

While large companies can offer high-speed services in larger centres, connecting small and rural communities doesn’t provide the necessary return on investment to make it worthwhile. But if the non-profit CBBC creates the infrastructure, those services will become possible.

“They will be able to provide a better service through us,” said Halwa.

The CBBC currently connects Golden, Trail and Castlegar, and will connect other communities — if those communities want it to — by using municipalities as the main hub for the local network.

“We stop there, and private enterprise takes it from there,” said Halwa. “We’re here to enable service providers … not take away from them.”

There are currently 29 Internet service providers in the Columbia Basin; low bandwidth and a variety of services types are keeping a regional network from flourishing. The easiest way to deliver the product to Creston, he said, would be to bring it to the library, and then bury a conduit to connect the network to town hall.

Once service providers are on the network, they can provide services to whomever they wish. Providers will have to apply to sell off the network, ensuring the most stable ones get to use it. As many as meet the requirements can get on board, allowing for greater competition.

“In the end, that does benefit the consumer,” said Halwa.

In many communities, connecting to the CBBC network will mean a bit of work — not every community has conduit in place waiting for this opportunity. Halwa suggested that municipalities should pass a conduit bylaw, so that when sewer or water lines are dug up for repair, fibre-optic conduit is buried with them.

There has been a lot of interest in the network, Halwa said.

“The very first things that get asked are, ‘How much is it going cost?’ and ‘When is it coming to my house?’ ” he said.

And he’s looking forward to the day when the CBBC provides the backbone for Internet in everybody’s house.

“Columbia Basin Trust will not do this for the communities, Columbia Basin Trust will do this with the communities,” Halwa said. “We’re not trying to meddle in anybody’s affairs. We’re just trying to bring a big pipe into town and let everybody utilize it.”

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