The province has announced that Clinton will benefit from the installation of a new fibre-to-the-home network, which will bring faster internet speeds to more than 400 households in Clinton and the surrounding area.
“Everyone has a right to quality high-speed internet. We’re focused on connecting every rural, remote and Indigenous community in B.C. by 2027,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services, in a statement issued on Nov. 7.
“Fibre to the home means that people will be able to access high-speed internet to better participate in the digital economy, stay connected to loved ones, and access necessary online services.”
The new infrastructure will provide gigabit-enabled high-speed internet, enabling broadband internet speeds surpassing 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads.
In December 2018, it was announced that local company ABC Communications was receiving Connecting British Columbia grant funding of $334,108 to install or upgrade existing networks and provide homes and businesses in Clinton with high-speed internet. The plan at the time was to install a fibre optic network for 327 homes and businesses in Clinton.
However, at a Clinton council meeting in November 2019, Falko Kadenbach of ABC Communications said that the proposed fibre optic project had hit a snag.
“We ran into a couple of issues,” he told council, noting that a lot of the community’s existing infrastructure was old, and required updates that ultimately crushed the project’s initial fibre optic business model. Instead, he proposed LTE — which employs a mix of fibre and millimetre wave — as a solution.
Council approved the new model, which outgoing mayor Susan Swan tells the Journal was a better option than what the community had at the time.
“It was still slower than what some of the businesses needed, and it was difficult to live-stream without interruptions,” she said following the Nov. 7 announcement. “There were still outages.” The shortcomings of the new system became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people and businesses were forced to depend on live-streaming.
“Once COVID hit, we understood we would need something better than what we had. Kids were trying to do virtual schooling, businesses were doing virtual business, and we needed something better than LTE. We had a lot of people moving here from the Lower Mainland assuming they could run their business from home, and if we had had adequate internet they could have.”
Swan says the village had been concerned, in 2019, that by approving the LTE option it would disqualify Clinton from getting fibre optic service when it became available in the area. They were assured by the Ministry of Citizens’ Services that fibre optic was still on the table.
“Part of the problem for ABC was that BC Hydro said a lot of the poles in Clinton didn’t have the capacity for more lines, so ABC would have had to pay to replace those poles, which increased the cost of the project to the point where they couldn’t afford it. Once Telus bought out ABC we started writing letters, because Telus was already leasing a section of the poles, and we asked if fibre could run on that space.”
She adds that Telus told the village that the LTE system was adequate.
“The Ministry of Citizens’ Services said their map showed Clinton was under-served [by internet], and Telus said it must be an old map. We said no, there are areas of the village not served by the new LTE service, and we gave them a list of the streets and areas that weren’t served. Telus sent out technicians, who confirmed it, and we used that to go after the funding [for fibre optic].”
The province has invested as much as $2 million in the new service through the Connecting British Columbia program, administered by the Northern Development Initiative Trust. The project has also received approximately $1.4 million in funding from internet service provider Telus. Initial surveying work has already started, and physical construction is slated to begin in spring 2023.
“We’ve been hearing from businesses that they want that increased connectivity, and I’ve been a passionate advocate for this project,” says Swan, whose term as mayor ends on Nov. 9. She likes what she was told by the ministry: “You’re leaving a nice legacy for your community.”