Fuelling a community - high-speed internet kicks northern B.C. into top gear
In Lheidli T’enneh’s Fort George 2 just north of Prince George, entrepreneur Doug Olson is gearing up for a busy year of business driven by the arrival of high-speed connectivity to the region.
Olson, a member of Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, is the manager of Tano Fuels, the Nation’s first gas station and convenience store that opened in 2017. The business holds key importance in the community – not only does it provide food and services to local residents who would otherwise have to drive outside the community, but it is also a significant economic driver for the local economy, enabling the Nation to move into other ventures.
Olson says the arrival of TELUS PureFibre® in 2021, has only fuelled more success, bringing an end to the days of unreliable internet services that hampered business growth and innovation.
The first big change? Tano Fuels is able to accommodate customers paying for services with credit and debit cards, a much-anticipated convenience in a digital world.
“We get pretty high traffic through here and customers stopping by for gas often want to pay with a credit card,” he said. “Now that we have PureFibre, we are able to utilize the benefits of our existing technology and this has made our business efficiency much stronger.”
PureFibre connectivity to the Nation and surrounding northern B.C. region comes as governments work to address connectivity gaps through targeted funding programs to increase access to high-speed internet in rural and Indigenous communities.
In partnership with government funders, TELUS has expanded access to the PureFibre network to many communities in B.C.’s northern region. PureFibre is B.C.'s only 100% pure fibre-to-the-home network. It currently reaches more than 1.7 million homes and businesses across the province, including 269,000 rural homes and businesses.
The powerful new connectivity is critical to economic growth, but also provides increased access to healthcare, education and a stronger, reliable connection to family and friends.
“Overall, everyone is really happy with the service,” says Olson.
Tano Fuels, managed by Doug Olson, member of Lheidli T'enneh First Nation.
In another area of B.C.’s northern region, Andy Beesley, a resident of the picturesque Salmon Valley, has also witnessed a positive transformation.
Nestled just north of the more urban City of Prince George, Salmon Valley is a tight-knit community that has often been overlooked. However, following a recent 2021 announcement and build to expand high-speed connectivity in the area, residents have seen an uptick in opportunities to participate in today’s digital world.
For Beesley, the impact was profound. Reliable, fast, and stable internet has become an integral part of his daily existence, breathing new life into his home and revitalized the entire community.
"High-speed internet in Salmon Valley has revolutionized our lives, connecting us to entertainment, loved ones and critical information,” he says. “It's a lifeline during emergencies like accidents and wildfires, providing real-time updates for comfort and peace of mind. Before, unreliable cell service left us isolated, but now improved connectivity makes us feel integral to our community."
Economic impact of connectivity funding
A July 2023 study released by the B.C. Government examined the economic impact of connectivity investments in Northern B.C. between 2017 and 2022, uncovering significant growth potential.
According to the study, B.C.’s northern region experienced a noteworthy boost of $22.2 million in GDP, along with the creation of 195 new jobs and $1.3 million in municipal tax revenue during the construction phase of connectivity projects. These gains were even more impressive at the provincial level, with a $44.1 million increase in GDP and 382 new jobs beyond B.C.’s northern communities.
Looking beyond the construction phase, the study emphasized the long-term benefits of improved broadband access. Enhanced connectivity opens up new economic opportunities for businesses, workers, and residents, like Olson and Beesley.
According to the study, an initial provincial investment of $38.4 million has generated $269.4 million in benefits for the northern region and overall province combined — a seven-fold return on investment.
“We are living in an increasingly interconnected world where access to high-speed internet for both services and economic opportunity has never been more important,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services. “Our commitment to connect rural, remote and First Nations community by 2027 ensures that everyone in B.C., regardless of where they live, can access the supports they need to succeed.”
Unlocking the benefits of PureFibre
The economic impact study conducted by B.C. Stats emphasizes the immense potential of further connectivity funding, stimulating growth, creating jobs, and generating long-term benefits for rural communities.
Stories like Beesley and Olson’s resonate throughout B.C., where access to PureFibre has broken down barriers and opened doors to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
Learn more about the impact that PureFibre is making in communities across the country.
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