Until 2008 when Minto Communications Society was founded there was no broadband internet access at all in the area, and it remains the sole provider of broadband internet services in the region. Its core objective is the support of social development, education, and economic opportunities for upper Bridge River valley residents via reliable, high quality, and high-speed internet service. It is an LTE radio-based telecommunications system with five customer access radio sites located throughout the upper Bridge River valley and a central office facility in located in Gold Bridge. As a non-profit, all revenue from the sales of internet subscriptions and annual membership fees are invested back into improving their service.
Tourism is a main driver of the economy in the region, especially in the main commercial hub of Gold Bridge. “Nine months of the year it’s just a sleepy rural town, and all of a sudden the population just explodes with tourists,” Bob explained. The communities of Gold Bridge, Gun Lake, Tyaughton Lake, Gun Creek Road and Bralorne are also experiencing growth, with a 63% increase in permanent residents from 2017-2021. As well as visitors to the area, the home-based businesses and tourism operators throughout these communities need reliable internet service.
But until MCS was able to invest in improving their infrastructure, it struggled to meet the needs of the community. MCS’ original internet infrastructure was from 2008, and it was dated and at end-of life. It utilized 2.4/5.8 Ghz radio systems over publicly available radio spectrum and was limited to a speed of 5 Mbps. “We couldn’t support any more customers on the system and the bandwidth was maxed out,” Bob said. “The demand for service just grew and grew. We were really stretched, which led to the discussion of either we pack it in, or we go and try to find some funding and upgrade to continue service. So we chose the latter route.”