Eyes on developing Okanagan as Silicon Valley of the north

Introduction of extreme high-speed Internet access to South Okanagan communities evens field to draw tech sector.

Telus is spending $26 million to bring very high-speed fibre Internet access to Penticton

Telus is spending $26 million to bring very high-speed fibre Internet access to Penticton

The introduction of extreme high-speed Internet access to South Okanagan communities is going to do a lot more than just allow people to upload and download movies easier.

Calling it a missing link for Penticton’s infrastructure, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said Telus’ announcement of a 150-megabit-per-second connection for Penticton, Naramata and West Bench, evens the playing field when it comes to attracting technology businesses to the area.

“We have been pushing the province to make sure it doesn’t turn into have or have not between Kelowna and north or south,” said Jakubeit. “The whole region has that connectivity and backbone and infrastructure to compete, and to develop this as a Silicon Valley of the north, so to speak.”

Access to Telus’ first-ever symmetrical 150 Mbps Internet plan, with matching high-speed upload and download might make the difference in where a company, entrepreneur or virtual worker chooses to locate, Jakubeit said, pointing out that Penticton offers more of the get away from the hustle and bustle lifestyle people are looking for than larger cities in the Okanagan.

Telus is investing more than $26.5 million to connect more than 90 per cent of homes and businesses in Penticton, Naramata and West Bench directly to its fibre optic network. Work will begin in fall 2016, and is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton said the provincial government is aware of the problems and inequalities caused by rural and smaller communities not having as high speed access to the Internet.

“We want to get into that trunk cable that comes out of West Kelowna, we want to be attached to that,” said Ashton, describing a conversation with an entrepreneur in Kelowna, whose tech business employs about 60 people.

“They don’t all want to work in Kelowna and a lot of them work from home,” said Ashton. “What he is looking at is that opportunity of that trunk line, so they can go to Peachland, they can come to Summerland, they can go to Penticton.”

“Direct fibre optic network connection unleashes infinite possibilities now and into the future,” said Tony Geheran, Telus’ president of broadband networks. “Along with enhancing the connectivity residents enjoy in their homes, this investment will dramatically enhance the speeds and capacity resorts can offer visitors, as well as open up new access to healthcare and education services. This part of the world is a beautiful place to live and is attracting new residents year after year. This new connection to the Telus PureFibre network will enable entrepreneurs and small businesses to thrive locally while reaching global customers through the growing digital economy.”

Ashton also pointed out the increased connectivity plays into ongoing discussions about developing shared services between Penticton, the Okanagan Skaha School district and the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

“His worship (Jakubeit) and myself have had numerous discussions,” said Ashton. “That is some of the discussion about what we can do this interconnectivity. Telus has stepped forward and hats off to them.”

“Penticton had already been recognized as one of Canada`s most entrepreneurial cities,” said Jakubeit. “Now both our residents, local business and our growing virtual workforce will be better equipped to continue advancing Penticton’s growth by reaching bigger markets, sharing data, video and ideas more quickly to each other and around the world.”

This investment is part of Telus’ commitment to invest $4.5 billion throughout B.C. through 2019, at no cost to taxpayers. For more information, visit telus.com/fibre.