For Immediate Release

May 10, 2021

RDBN and CityWest Pursuing Partnership to Address Connectivity Needs

Burns Lake, B.C. – The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako and CityWest are pleased to announce that the RDBN Board of Directors has provided approval in principle for a Partnering Agreement with CityWest. The RDBN believes that collaboration with CityWest is a key step in developing high-speed connectivity solutions in the Region and looks forward to the successful establishment of a formal Partnering Agreement.

It is a stated goal of the government of Canada to connect every Canadian to affordable, high-speed Internet no matter where they live, and we believe this is an opportunity to provide that service to rural and remote communities like ours. The RDBN and CityWest have put considerable effort into understanding the current experience of our residents and are committed to ensuring everyone has access to this vital service. CityWest and RDBN staff have worked collaboratively on submissions to the Connecting BC Program and the Universal Broadband Fund’s recent intakes for projects in the RDBN. We look forward to announcements about approved projects through these Funds.

In addition to having a significant impact on emergency response and communications, economic development and quality of life indicators, our residents rely on access to virtual health, education, mental health and social services via online platforms. For these reasons, connectivity has become a critical agenda item for our leadership. CityWest has demonstrated an authentic willingness to hear and understand RDBN connectivity needs and our requirements as rural communities.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has highlighted the drastic inequality of access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet for rural communities and multiplied the urgency for increased online availability of service delivery. Quick action is required to address the lack of broadband infrastructure in both our Municipalities and Electoral Areas. Improved connectivity will help improve health, education, and social outcomes for all our residents.

As a northern, municipally owned company and local employer, CityWest is well positioned to meet connectivity needs in the north. Assurance that the benefits of our investment and returns will flow back to the communities we live and serve in makes this partnership even more valuable.

The RDBN is committed to providing CityWest support and assistance in any way possible to help their efforts to bring broadband connectivity to our region. As part of the process of entering into a Partnering Agreement, the RDBN will also be starting the process of establishing a Service for Broadband Infrastructure. This region-wide service will allow the RDBN to contribute to the capital costs of Broadband infrastructure through the Federal Gas Tax Fund or other available infrastructure funds. The Service Bylaw is expected to be established with minimal taxation. The Service is required to contribute infrastructure funding towards capital costs, and it is not the RDBN’s intention to fund connectivity infrastructure through taxation of this service.

“The RDBN is thrilled to be partnering with CityWest, a municipally owned company that not only understands, but is also committed to meeting the connectivity needs of rural residents. Our shared philosophy of ‘No home left behind’ is reflective of the approach we are taking in the development of this exciting partnership. We are incredibly optimistic about the opportunities that will be created to provide our residents with reliable, affordable internet and cellular connectivity.” – Gerry Thiessen, RDBN Board Chair

“Access to reliable cellular telephone and broadband internet services is crucial in today’s world. Without it, residents of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako cannot participate in today’s digital economy, easily access government services, or obtain information in the event of an emergency. We believe that partnering with CityWest, a company with a vision that reflects our shared goals, is the next step in our ongoing efforts to improve connectivity in this region, and we look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.” - Michael Riis-Christianson, RDBN Connectivity Committee Chair

“CityWest’s mission is to bring urban-quality Internet and amazing customer service to under-served areas around the province. We’ve heard the incredible stories of many people who live and work in the RDBN, and as a social enterprise focused on community service, we know they need better Internet in order to connect to their loved ones, to empower working from home solutions, and to take part in the digital economy. We’re happy to be working with leadership in every community within the Regional District, and we’re excited to bring the entire region better broadband services.” - Stefan Woloszyn, CEO CityWest

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