Workers run a fibre optic cable near Main Street Monday morning. Downtown Smithers will be the first area connected with high speed Internet.

Higher-speed Internet coming to Bulkley Valley

Fibre optic network will be hooked up in phases in Telkwa and Smithers, with downtown Smithers the first area to be connected this spring.

Business files and cat videos will soon be coming through Telkwa and Smithers’ computers much faster after Prince Rupert-based company CityWest finishes installing its new fibre to the home network.

New Hazelton was hooked up last Wednesday, and fibre optic cables to beam the Internet to Old Hazelton and the Kispiox Valley will start going up in the next few weeks according to CityWest’s Donovan Dias.

We’ve just been here for so long that if we don’t do it, we can’t see anyone else doing it,” said Dias.

High-speed Internet plans for Smithers and Telkwa as well as a new Smithers office were discussed at Thursday’s Smithers and District Chamber of Commerce meeting.

The downtown store is expected to open April 7 and employ five people. The fibre optic network will be hooked up in phases in Telkwa and Smithers, with downtown Smithers the first area to be connected this spring.

I would use a year as a time line,” said CEO Don Holkestad when asked at the meeting when he expects all the work to be done.

High-speed service will be available to anyone who is within the company’s cable television service. Holkestad said he believed it would allow more people to consider Smithers as an option to move their business, a sentiment Mayor Taylor Bachrach echoed.

The Internet has become such an integral part of our economy and just our daily lives that smaller communities and remote areas are getting left behind.

I think this project is going to catch Smithers up with a bunch of the world and give us a bunch of cutting edge technology,” said Bachrach.

We already have so many recreational amenities and obviously the landscape is spectacular; one of the things people are looking for, particularly if they move from a larger centre, is higher speed internet.”

Holkestad said an upgrade to the company’s networks across the Northwest was happening because of the huge jump in how much bandwidth customers were using. He said in his presentation that network usage had gone up 864 per cent since 2012.

It’s growing exponentially and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon,” said Holkestad.

CityWest has applied to the federal government’s $305 million Connecting Canadians fund meant to connect rural and remote communities to high-speed Internet.

We’ve put in applications to the Smithers east area — sections beyond Telkwa — and we’ve also put in an application for Lake Kathlyn and the airport area to get fibre to the home services there as well,” said Dias.

Any support we can get from residents in the area, whether that letter comes through us and we send it on, or if you send it through political channels through Industry Canada, those types of things will certainly help the case.”


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