As Minister responsible for connecting communities in British Columbia, I am pleased to inform you that the Ministry of Labour and Citizens’ Services is launching a new program to bridge the digital divide in rural and remote communities. The program could directly benefit your community.
Starting immediately, the Connecting Citizens Grant Program will help rural and remote communities achieve "last mile" broadband Internet connectivity into local homes and businesses. The Province will also leverage its telecommunications buying power to achieve "last mile" Internet connections and to expand cellular phone service. These new commitments to bridging the digital divide in rural and remote B.C. were announced by the Honourable Gordon Campbell, Premier of British Columbia, in his annual speech to the Union of B.C. Municipalities on September 26, 2008.
The Connecting Citizens Grant Program will make a total of $5.2 million available to communities across rural British Columbia over the next three years. The grant program will assist community networks and Internet service providers in rural and remote areas of British Columbia to purchase needed infrastructure for "last mile" service and to enable better community access to existing Internet gateways.
The Connecting Citizens Grant Program is in response to rural community feedback that, "last mile" infrastructure, in addition to the existing Internet gateways, is critical to providing citizens with high-speed Internet access. This program is an opportunity for you to work with others in your community or area to initiate a project for "last mile" connectivity to homes and businesses.
Under the Connecting Citizens Grant Program, grants of up to $50,000 per community will be distributed by my ministry through Network BC. (Network BC provides leadership and support for strategic use of telecommunications in British Columbia.) This new program follows on the success of the Community Networking Infrastructure Grant Program, which has already helped 57 rural and remote B.C. communities achieve "last mile" service.
The Province is committed to bridging the digital divide and ensuring that all British Columbians can share in the economic, educational and social benefits that connected communities can bring.
I hope you share in my delight at this announcement and the opportunity it represents for families and small businesses in rural B.C.
Grant applications for the current year will be accepted until November 7, 2008. For further information or to apply for a grant for your community, please refer to the Network BC website at www.network.gov.bc.ca or call 250 356-6118.
I wish you every success in your efforts to bring connectivity to your area.
Minister of Labour and Citizens' Services