FILE - The B.C. Ministry of Citizens’ Services announced targeted funding on April 24, 2020 to give people in rural, remote and Indigenous communities access to faster internet services during the COVID-19 pandemic. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

FILE - The B.C. Ministry of Citizens’ Services announced targeted funding on April 24, 2020 to give people in rural, remote and Indigenous communities access to faster internet services during the COVID-19 pandemic. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

B.C. announces funding to improve rural internet connectivity during COVID-19

Internet providers throughout province can apply for grants up to $50,000 — or 90% of upgrade expenses

The B.C. government has announced targeted funding to help internet service providers in underserved communities throughout the province complete quick equipment upgrades during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 24, the Ministry of Citizens’ Services announced the funding to help rural, remote and Indigenous communities in B.C. access faster internet services “at a time when they need them most.”

“People working from home, students learning remotely and families practising physical distancing all need to know they can depend on internet access during this public health emergency,” Minister of Citizens’ Services Anne Kang said. “Responding to the pandemic requires the best from all of us. Our communities need reliable internet access right now, and this new fund will get projects completed quickly.”

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Internet service providers can apply for grants of up to $50,000 — or 90 per cent of their expenses — through the $50-million Connecting British Columbia program. The grants are meant to cover the cost of network upgrades that can be completed by June 30, including upgrades to equipment such as antennas and electronics.

Applications are now being accepted by Northern Development Initiative Trust and submissions will be reviewed on a first-come-first-served basis, with funding decisions made within three to five business days.

ALSO READ: $50 million available for rural B.C. high-speed internet projects

In another release on Friday, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice welcomed the funding announcement and encouraged eligible providers to take advantage by upgrading their infrastructure.

“Now more than ever, having quality internet access is essential for people in remote communities — for people to stay connected, kids to do school work and for business to keep flowing,” Rice said. “I know that for people in small communities in the North and Central Coast, having faster internet could make a big difference in these difficult, physically-distanced times.”

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