Bill 3 opens door for improved rural Internet services
Recent changes to British Columbia’s Local Government Act (Bill 3) gives regional districts the ability to provide capital financing to businesses for the purpose of expanding high-speed internet to underserved areas.
“Regional districts have been asking for this. It’s one more way we are delivering results that empower communities, bringing more people online to be involved in, and benefit from, today’s digital economy,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The changes build on the significant investments our government has already made to connect people and communities by increasing their access to high-speed Internet service.”
Changes enable regional districts to provide financing for capital costs to Internet service providers where it may not otherwise make sense from a business perspective. This will help advance construction of new connectivity infrastructure for rural and remote communities, a Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Ministry of Citizens’ Services press release stated.
Although the act generally prohibits a regional district from aiding a business, it also contains specific exceptions to this rule for services that are often considered essential, such as telephone, natural gas or electricity.
Changes to the Local Government Act reflect that high-speed Internet has become a basic service, the ministries said.
“High-speed Internet is not a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity in today’s digital world. This legislative change will empower regional districts to help bring this vital service to residents in a way that meets the specific needs of their communities,” said Jinny Sims, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “The greatest successes in expanding broadband in rural areas have come when all levels of government, the private sector and community groups work together to make the most of this essential infrastructure for local businesses and people.”
The province has defined high-speed Internet service to align with standards established by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission.
To qualify as a high-speed Internet service, the new standards require minimum speeds of 50 megabits per second when downloading information and 10 megabits per second when uploading information.
Updates to the Local Government Act respond to needs identified by local governments through resolutions endorsed by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.