Earlier this month I toured the Prince George region to meet with a number of key stakeholders in the region. It became apparent from my visit that we have an incredible opportunity in British Columbia for continued innovation in our resource and tech sectors.
Prince George real estate is still reasonably priced, the surrounding environment is picturesque, there’s a first rate university in town. Prince George is a hub for northern BC and on the rail line from the Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of greatest, if not the greatest, rail distribution centres in North America.
So what is missing? Why is there not a thriving and expanding hub of local technological innovation in partnership with the resource, forestry and agricultural sectors and capitalizing on the research expertise at UNBC? Why wouldn’t companies that are concerned about access to renewable energy, a skilled workforce and being able to attract and retain their workers not setup in Prince George? They’re located on the railway connecting Chicago’s North American rail distribution centre to Prince Rupert, a gateway to Asian markets.
The answer is simple. Broadband redundancy in the region precludes major investments in this area.
Today in the legislature I rose to question the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen Services about government’s plans to introduce broadband redundancy in Prince George.
A. Weaver: I wish to thank the members opposite for applauding my introduction of my question again.
It’s become perfectly clear to everyone in this House — and, frankly, everyone in British Columbia — that this government’s plans for LNG have been nothing short of a monumental failure. There’s no backup plan. The government is void of ideas and in desperate need of help.
As leader of the B.C. Green Party, a party that cares about social, economic and environmental prosperity for all British Columbians, I visited Prince George earlier this month. I was struck by the potential for this region.
Prince George is a home of a first-class research university, the hub for northern B.C.’s forestry and natural resource sectors and is on the rail line from Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of the greatest distribution centres in North America. The cooler climate of Prince George, relative to other jurisdictions on the west coast, also offers it certain unique advantages.
My question to the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services is simple. Has this government considered providing broadband redundancy for the Prince George region
Hon. A. Virk: I’d like to thank the member from Oak Bay for his leadership, first of all, and for the question. The fact that he has gone to Prince George and recognized the great universities and the great north of British Columbia. Perhaps those to his right could learn from that leadership and go realize that there’s more to this province than those four or eight or ten square blocks in downtown Vancouver.
But I digress. The question that the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head poses…. I’ve had staff, in fact, look into that. There are actually multiple backbone fibre lines to Prince George — up 97, east on Highway 16 and south on Highway 5. So there are redundancy lines to Prince George.
We’re going to continue to work on connectivity all across the province. If the member so wishes, I can certainly have him have a briefing with our connectivity experts at his earliest availability.
A. Weaver: In fact, the broadband redundancy does not exist in Prince George as we speak. Bringing the typically urban-based tech and the typically rural-based resource sector together, through partnership and innovation, will play a vital role in a 21st century economy that builds on British Columbia’s strategic advantage.
Prince George is an obvious strategic location for such growth, but in order for this to happen, it’s critical that broadband redundancy exist in the region — high-speed broadband redundancy. The government launched a $5 million ad campaign promoting its actions this past November. But instead of the slogan “Our opportunity is here,” the government could actually create that opportunity in investing in needed infrastructure to benefit B.C.’s northern communities.
At $20,000 to $25,000 per kilometre, a 300-kilometre distance from Prince George to Chetwynd would cost a mere $6 million to $7.5 million to lay. Tech investors, data distribution centres and other innovators will not invest substantively in Prince George until broadband redundancy exists. The best part about this opportunity is that the cost to government is small and the potential benefits are unbounded.
To the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, my question is simple. Will the government commit to invest the $6 million to $7.5 million, today, required to ensure high-speed broadband redundancy for Prince George and real, sustainable and diversified economic prosperity to the north? And, if not, why not?
Hon. A. Virk: I know that the members from Prince George and members of the rural caucus certainly applaud the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head in terms of his continued interest in rural British Columbia and continued interest in the north.
As I said, there is multiple backbone fibre lines to Prince George, but let’s look beyond that. The member will certainly recall the additional $10 million committed to increase connectivity all across British Columbia. We’re at 94 percent. We’re at 94 percent right now; 94 percent of British Columbians currently have access to high-speed Internet — considered in today’s technology environment.
We are committed to ensuring that every single British Columbian is connected to high-speed Internet because it’s become a stable item. We are committed that every single person in British Columbia by 2021 has access to high-speed Internet.
Media Release: February 25, 2016
Andrew Weaver – Tech investment in Northern BC lacking
For immediate release
Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, today offered government an untapped opportunity for job creation and technological innovation in northern British Columbia through the introduction of broadband redundancy into the region.
Prince George is home to a first class research university, the hub for northern BC’s forestry and natural resource sectors, and on the rail line from the Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of greatest rail distribution centres in North America. The cooler climate of Prince George, relative to other jurisdictions on the west coast, also offers unique advantages for data centres.
“Bringing the typically urban-based tech and typically rural-based resource sectors together through partnership and innovation will play a vital role in building a 21st century economy that builds on British Columbia’s strategic advantages,” says Weaver. “In order for these to be possible, it is critical that broadband internet redundancy be brought to the region. This means investing in another line of broadband connectivity for Prince George.”
Broadband redundancy is when a city has at least two lines of connectivity to the rest of the world. Currently Prince George only has one direct highspeed line to Vancouver.
“Tech investors, data distribution centres, and other innovators will not invest substantively in Prince George until the infrastructure is there,” says Weaver. “The best part about this opportunity is that the cost to government is negligible and the potential benefits are unbounded.”
At a cost of about $20,000 to $25,000 per kilometre, the 300 km distance connecting Prince George to Chetwynd would cost between $6 million and $7.5 million to lay.
Telus invested $75m in a new data centre in Kamloops which opened in 2014.
“The fact that Kamloops has broadband redundancy is one of the key reasons they invested $75 million in a new data centre,” says Weaver. “This is just one example of the potential opportunities that could exist.”
Andrew Weaver asked the Minister of Technology and Innovation if he would support an investment in broadband redundancy for the city of Prince George today in Question Period.
Press Secretary – Andrew Weaver MLA
Cell: 250 216 3382
Victoria BC V8V 1X4
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