Rural British Columbia residents pay more for poorer internet and cell phone service: report

British Columbians who want to surf the internet and use their cell phones in rural parts of the province pay more for inferior service than those living in urban areas.

That’s the conclusion of a government report evaluating internet and mobile services across BC

In the review, the Department of Citizen Services commended British Columbia as “a leader compared to other provinces” for access to internet speeds of 50/10 Mbps (megabits per second), 200+ Mbps and 1 gigabit. But this guidance is location dependent.

According to the report, 95 percent of British Columbia households have access to 50/10 Mbps service – five percent more than the Canadian average.

While service is near universal in urban areas, many rural areas and First Nations reservations remain underserved at 63 percent.

The report also finds that BC ranks above the Canadian average for access to higher-speed internet services, with 93 percent of British Columbians having access to internet speeds of 200 Mbps or greater and 92 percent having access to 1 Gbps speeds.

But there are regional differences.

59 percent of households in rural areas have access to high-speed Internet, compared to 99 percent in urban areas.

British Columbia’s rural residents also pay more for Internet service: the average 50/10 Mbps Internet plan costs $75 per month. While that’s $10 less than the Canadian average, it’s significantly more than the $40 per month in major cities.

Lower population numbers and connectivity infrastructure are the main causes, the report finds.

Cellular service also differs from region to region. While 94 percent of BC’s urban residents have access to 5G, just over half of rural residents do.

The report ranks BC behind the Canadian average in terms of coverage along sections of major highways. Reasons include difficult terrain, lack of available power sources and what the reports described as “remoteness from freeways with no population supporting a business case to expand cellular services.”

Of the province’s 15,000 kilometers of primary and secondary highways, about 4,200 kilometers — or 28 percent — have no cellphone coverage. Of that, 3,100 kilometers – or 37 percent – ​​also lack the available energy needed for mobile phone masts.

Citizens Services Minister Lisa Beare noted in the report that the government has made improvements in internet and mobile service a priority.

“We know that connectivity is a key factor in the growth and economic development of our communities and the continued success of our province,” she said. “Connectivity is also critical for British Columbia residents to learn and work from anywhere as the province adapts to the professional demands of the future.”

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Provincial Government for Internet and Telecommunications