Six communities in rural Kaslo and at the north end of Kootenay Lake are now enjoying broadband internet service.
About 330 households in Shutty Bench, Argenta and Johnsons Landing, as well as on Zwicky Road and the Allen Subdivision of now have access to speeds of more than 50 megabits per second for download and 10 megabits per second for uploads.
It builds on an earlier project by the Kaslo infoNet Society to build fibre optic infrastructure in the area and provide high-speed service to Woodbury.
The provincial government invested about $259,000 in the project while the society contributed $337,000.
“It’s radically transformative,” said Isaac Maxfield, the executive director of the infoNet Society, said in an interview.
“The previous connections we had for our wireless service were fine enough for watching Netflix or streaming services where you can buffer the content and interruptions aren’t the worst thing in the world.
“With the fibre optic connection, though, you’re able to participate in any kind of online social media. We have people in Johnsons Landing now who can take a Zoom, Skype, or Teams call and they’ll have a better connection and more stable internet than someone in a downtown office.”
Maxfield said that will help bridge the digital divide for things like telehealth, education, and remote work, allowing residents in these communities to “fully participate in the new digital economy.”
Until now, he said customers have been limited to maximum connection speeds of about 10 megabits down and three megabits up — provided they had a good line of sight to one of the towers.
But it has been a slow process, with the first phase of the project beginning in 2019. He said they are still completing some in-home installations in Johnsons Landing.
“Having high-speed internet access at home in Argenta has been a game-changer, allowing me to reliably attend video meetings and work from home,” Chelsey Jones, executive director of the Lardeau Valley Opportunity LINKS Society, said in a news release.
“Improved connectivity throughout the Lardeau Valley will facilitate community development, and make a big difference in attracting and retaining residents and businesses in our communities.”