Progress is being made on a plan to install fibre optic cable along Highway 97 from Prince George to Dawson Creek.
In a presentation to the Fraser-Fort George Regional District board, Shaw Communications Inc. government relations manager Kiersten Enemark said the project is in the preliminary design stage and indicated there is still a chance to make some adjustments in terms of so-called "break out points" for service along the route.
Work is scheduled to begin in spring 2020 and is to be completed by the end of March 2021. It will fill in a long-standing gap in Northern B.C. -— there is currently a fibre optic loop from Kamloops to Prince George and from Dawson Creek to Edmonton but nothing in between.
The project has been hailed providing the missing piece of the puzzle in terms of attracting a data centre to Prince George because it will provide the redundancy they need to continue to provide service should there be trouble along one of the routes.
Most of the discussion on Thursday, however, centred on how it will improve service to the communities along Highway 97 North.
About a dozen spots along the route have been identified for break out points, some of them to provide WiFi service at highway rest stops while Powder King was also mentioned. The will also be a breakout point at the junction of Highway 97 and Highway 39 to Mackenzie, but the community will remain outside the fibre optic service for the time being.
However, Enemark and two of her colleagues were in Mackenzie earlier Thursday to discuss the possibility of bringing fibre optic to the community.
Salmon Valley, the McLeod Lake Indian Band's main reserve, and Peace Christian School in Dokie Siding west of Dawson Creek have been slated for major points of presence, Enemark said.
In March 2018, it was announced that Shaw will receive conditional funding totalling $20.7 million from the federal and provincial governments to bring the service to the 410-kilometre route as well as for similar work along Highway 99 to the south.
For most of the route, the cable is to be underground with about 75 kilometres to be strung out on existing utility poles.