The Strathcona Regional District will be sending a “strongly worded letter” to the province asking them to reconsider the allocation of last-mile funding for the Connected Coast project.
During his report at the beginning of the meeting, board chair Brad Unger said that he had met with the province about the Connected Coast project, and inquired about the nature of the information they’d received from Telus concerning existing connection speeds.
Last mile funding is available to communities that are considered unserved by current telecommunications networks. Essentially, communities that fall under a certain threshold connectivity speed are able to apply for the funding. Chair Unger was concerned that the province had been getting information from Telus, and that the company has been doing “inadequate mapping of speeds” in communities in the SRD.
“In Gold River and Tahsis we didn’t get any funding because as far as they were concerned, these were served communities with 50/10 (referring to download and upload speeds).”
Earlier this year, people living in the SRD submitted screenshots of internet speed tests that showed they were far under that threshold. However, the decision was made that these communities were not eligible for the funding due to the speeds reported by Telus.
SRD directors moved to send a “strongly worded letter” to the province asking them to reverse their decision regarding last-mile funding.
“The government has to stop supporting the big businesses,” said chair Unger during the meeting.
Quadra Island director Jim Abram agreed, saying that the letter should include the amounts of money that the communities were deemed ineligible for.
“Quadra Island had about $8.5 million applied for for unserved areas, and in the end we got around $2 million,” said Abram. “We lost around $6 million.”
Chief administrative officer David Leitch informed the directors that the province does intend on doing an independent study of connectivity speeds for all communities that are interested.
Leitch has been in touch with the province about the issue, and said that if the results of the test come back in favour of the SRD, “we have tangible correspondence that says we didn’t get funding because of this. If the study shows that it is not accurate, then we’ll be sitting down and reassessing applications.”
However, the results of that test would delay the Connected Coast project’s timeline by months.
“We’re supposed to be laying cable in June and the commitment was that Quadra Island was to be lit up in October,” Abram said. “You can’t do that if you can’t get a decision on funding until the fall.”