A study by BC Stats says broadband investments in the Kootenays will pay off handsomely.
The report, entitled the Kootenay Connectivity Benefits Study, suggests the $19.4 million invested since 2020 by the provincial government in increased high-speed internet services in the area produced a $56.2-million increase in gross domestic product and 429 new jobs as a result of construction. The figure increases to $67 million and 500 jobs when B.C. is looked at as a whole.
Long-term, the study projects a $214 million bump in the GDP over 20 years as a result of increased productivity and access to broadband.
Boundary-Similkameen MLA Roly Russell, who is the parliamentary secretary for rural development, said he is pleased to have data confirming what he suspected to be the case.
“For me it’s exciting because we’re trying to figure out how to best invest in the community scaffolding that helps build energy and enterprise in rural economics,” he said, adding that while the study looked at financial returns, there are social benefits as well.
“It’s great to have these numbers to back up what we know is true in terms of how important high-speed connectivity is to access education, workforce development, family and loved ones. It’s great to have some quantification to back up what I think we intrinsically know is true.”
Russell said the Kootenays were a good case study because of its rural setting, number of people without high-speed connections, and the involvement of local government partners and the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, who teamed up to address the need.
The study serves as a model for understanding the possible impact that connectivity investments can have on an economic region and the province as a whole, the government said in a news release.
The investments were made through the Connecting British Columbia Program, and funded 24 projects to connect more than 10,000 households in the area.