The lakes and rivers of the Columbia Basin have connected the people of our region for centuries. These days, these waterways have become a new means of connection: as conduits for underwater cables that supply high-speed Internet to communities that otherwise might have to go without.

This project expands CBBC’s 800-plus kilometres of fibre optic broadband network.

Because of its remoteness, the North Kootenay Lake area surrounding Kaslo has had to work hard to ensure residents have reliable access to this important service. The Kaslo infoNet Society (KiN) has been leading the way on bringing the latest in Internet service to the area for two decades.

“If better Internet can be brought here, it enables many services to come to us that would ordinarily be found in larger cities,” says KiN President Don Scarlett.

“The Internet can be a key driver for economic development. It enables young people to come and stay here, and start families and do well.”

As part of its commitment to helping residents of the region fully take part in the digital world, Columbia Basin Trust first helped KiN bring basic fibre optic service to Kaslo in 2014 through its wholly owned subsidiary, Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC). KiN then decided to tackle the challenge of how to bring a faster connection to the community and other communities along the northern half of Kootenay Lake.

Scarlett and his team came up with the idea of laying 36 kilometres of fibre optic cable underneath Kootenay Lake. This would connect to the main CBBC network in Balfour— and provide a nearly limitless pipeline of Internet capacity to about 700 homes, from Ainsworth to Argenta.

KiN approached CBBC with the idea and CBBC stepped in to develop the project. It is using an innovative fibre design and new installation approach to laying cable under water, which will be more cost-effective than traditional underwater approaches or laying it on land. This method could also potentially be used in other areas of the Basin where going under water makes sense.

This project, which is also being supported by the Province of British Columbia through the Northern Development initiative trust Connecting BC Program, expands CBBC’s 800-plus kilometres of fibre optic broadband network, and will have “points of presence” (places where Internet service providers can connect to it) in Ainsworth, Loki Lots, Pine Ridge and Kaslo. Through these attachments, KiN will have the broadband capacity it needs to expand its local network and improve wireless service to meet the growing demand. Design and permitting is done and the aim is to have the project complete in 2018 subject to construction timing.

“It takes a certain amount of fundraising and technical expertise, which is what CBBC is giving us,” says Scarlett.

“That is enabling us to bring massive bandwidth to a community that would otherwise have to make do with a very small allotment.”