Rural and remote ISPs compromised by federal infrastructure grants

June 7, 2010

A number of ISPs in rural and remote areas were taken by surprise when the federal government announced the winners of the first round of infrastructure spending for rural and remote broadband.  Apparently a large proportion of the funding is earmarked to overbuild existing, self-sustaining broadband networks.

Since the market in these areas is very limited, this jeopardizes the sustainability of existing local ISPs.  There are several examples of this problem in B.C., in northern Manitoba and in northern Ontario.

One provider so affected, the Peace Region Internet Society (PRIS) in northern B.C., has been in providing connectivity in the area since 1994.  This community owned not-for-profit organization has 4000 subscribers and provides both wire and wireless  services.  The winning bidder for federal funding was an Alberta company which proposes to connect 2128 new households.  PRIS, which was never consulted about its current level of service, says this needs review. 

"The announcement of fund recipients for British Columbia appears to have been determined with little regard for existing community networks" says Arvo Koppel, PRIS System Administrator.