While out enjoying the Slocan Valley Rail Trail in summer 2021, the public might have seen an unusual piece of equipment: a tractor-like vehicle mounted with a huge spool of cable. Its job: to dig a trench at the edge of the trail and place the cable in it, laying the necessary groundwork to help improve internet access for many businesses and residents in the Slocan Valley.
One of the Columbia Basin Trust’s priorities is to improve access to reliable, affordable, high-speed connectivity in the region, especially in underserved rural areas.
People in the Basin have expressed that good connectivity is essential when it comes to education, employment, health care, entertainment and connecting with others.
Two new projects will add 185 kilometres of fibre optic cable in the region. With this new backbone in place, local internet service providers can gain access to this network at various points of presence along the route. This would enable them to greatly improve service to meet the current and future needs of local communities, businesses and residents.
In the Slocan Valley, the fibre installation project begins at Playmor Junction, runs up the Slocan Valley through Winlaw, Slocan and New Denver, heads northwest to Nakusp and then stops at Shoreholme. In a second location — the South Country — the project runs between Jaffray and the United States border at Roosville, including Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it, Grasmere and Baynes Lake, plus an additional branch to Kragmont.
In some places, like along the Rail Trail, the cable is being buried underground. There are also two other installation methods being used: aerial and submarine. The aerial technique is used to install fibre optic cable on existing utility and communications poles.
Where it makes sense, the cable is being laid under water, like in Slocan and Summit lakes. In the South Country, construction crews are undertaking mostly aerial and underground installations. All work is on track to finish by spring 2023.
The project is also being supported by the Province’s Connecting British Columbia program, plus the regional districts of East Kootenay and Central Kootenay and the communities of Slocan, Silverton, New Denver and Nakusp.
Once it’s completed, internet service providers can connect to this expanded backbone, and up to 6,400 households could ultimately benefit from improved high-speed connectivity.
A photo from above shows work crews near Winlaw on the Slocan Valley Rail Trail this past summer in 2021.