Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman doesn’t post to his public Facebook page very often.
But with a lack of internet connectivity in Pemberton only continuing to worsen in the last few months, a recent post aims to make sure the community knows it’s an issue that’s not being ignored. “Part of it is my own frustration, because this is something we’ve been working at for a while,” he said. “I recognize that this is causing greater frustration to many of our residents, and I think sometimes people don’t realize what kind of work is going on behind the scenes on some of these issues, so I wanted to catch people up a little bit and let them know that a lot of effort is being put into changing the situation.”
Posted on Dec. 4, “Pemberton‘s internet connectivity situation is unacceptable and we know it. New businesses and residents are not able to connect and Pemberton community buildings need higher speeds to handle the volume,” the message acknowledged.
The efforts being put forth to resolve the internet issues include multiple weekly meetings, Richmann added. “I have had and continue to have meetings with internet service providers, our MLA Jordan Sturdy, MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones and local partners like the chamber and the SLRD (Squamish-Lillooet Regional District). We will continue to push this issue and are working hard for it to happen sooner than later,” the post continued.
If Richman has his way, a solution could come as soon as spring 2018.
“I don’t want to have it any later because, once again, it’s just completely unacceptable. We’re seeing a ton of development. It’s an essential service; people are moving into our community and they can’t access internet,” he said. “That’s not OK.”
The main issue lies in a lack of capacity within the existing infrastructure, Richman explained. “We don’t have enough fibre or capacity within the fibre line to provide new connections. We’ve maxed out what we have.”
But despite the Village’s continued effort to push the issue with everyone from service providers to the federal government, exactly what that solution might look like remains to be seen. While federal funding opportunities exist to equip remote communities with internet service, Pemberton doesn’t match the criteria.
“These funds are available to providers to provide fibre,” Richman explained. “I understand that a lot of this program has to do with really remote communities, to make sure they have access to the internet… but it seems ironic to me that we’re not that remote and yet we’re in a situation where we can’t provide service to new residents and businesses.”
To that end, the Village has been working with a number of providers, who have agreed to start developing plans. However, “That has just not happened yet to date and that’s my frustration… Basically what we’re trying to do is understand through these conversations, what level of service we can be offered, how much it’s going to cost, bottom line, to get it to the doors of our residents, and when we can make it happen. Those are the three biggest factors.”
But in the meantime, that means basic, functional internet is, in some cases, impossible to come by for many Pemberton residents and business owners. “We’ve gotten to a point where if you were to build a house on a bare lot in Pemberton, you couldn’t even get a connection now,” Richman explained. “We have zero capacity to grow our connections for new residents and new businesses of that sort. It started with, ‘we need better service for our Village, our residents and our community buildings,’ and now it’s gotten to point where we actually need capacity, because we don’t have any. The conversation has ramped up as a result, and I thought it was important for people to know this is a priority.”