Vancouver, British Columbia, Local 213 members will bring high-speed internet to parts of the province's rural and coastal areas. Photo credit: Flickr user Bryan Megan Jackson. 

Residents in coastal and rural British Columbia, including 44 First Nations, are about to get an internet upgrade thanks in part to members of Vancouver, Local 213.

“Access to high-speed internet is not a luxury; it's essential. High-speed internet service is a basic tool that all Canadians should have access to, regardless of their postal code,” said Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development. “Canadians need this service to do business, upgrade their education and build stronger communities.”

The work is part of a CA$45 million joint investment by the Canadian and British Columbian governments to bring high-speed internet to 154 rural and remote communities, providing them with increased access to services like health care and education as well as economic opportunities like tourism.

“Our members are the best in the business and we’re honoured to be chosen to bring more access to our neighbors living and working in the more remote parts of the province,” said Local 213 Business Manager Adam Van Steinburg. “These digital highways are just as important as concrete roads and bridges.”

IBEW signatory contractor CityWest Cable and Telephone is one of two organizations to receive the funding. It will get just over CA$12 million to wire 23 communities and close to 100 institutions.

“This is yet another example of CityWest expanding its network beyond its current footprint in its mission to provide a superior customer experience,” said CEO Chris Marett.

The investment includes 3.5 million metres of new subsea fibre optic cable that will connect Vancouver to Prince Rupert, about 1,500 kilometres to the north, as well as the Vancouver Island area.

“Projects like this secure the future for our members working for CityWest,” said Robin Nedila, Local 213 assistant business manager representing members in cable and telecommunications. “Our telecommunications training department offers the very best fiber optic training in the industry and we’re confident that our members will succeed in northern B.C.”

Local 213 members get training through NETCOM, the telecommunications training arm for the local, in fiber placing, splicing and testing. The extent of their work on the project has yet to be finalized, Nedila said, but Local 213 has exclusive jurisdiction for telecommunications work.

The project is part of a larger federal program, Connect to Innovate, that aims to provide high-speed internet service to Canadians in unserved and underserved area access.

"Slow, unreliable internet is a fact of life," said Peter Lantin, president of the Haida Nation, located in northern British Columbia in the area designated for the digital upgrade. "Coders, designers, artists, accountants, linguists, small business people can now reach a global audience. Young people can really think about staying in our communities with a full and stimulating livelihood." 

The project is set to start later this year and is expected to take three years to complete with phased construction, according to a CityWest press release.

“This shows the confidence that the B.C. and federal governments have in the ability of our members to provide this much-needed service, and we’re happy to do it,” said First District Vice President William Daniels. “Our members aren’t just the best at what they do, they’re also committed to improving their communities.”