There’s a new face at the Trust working to address connectivity needs in the region.
Donovan Dias is the new Chief Operating Officer of the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC). This wholly owned Trust subsidiary works to make high-speed internet connectivity available throughout the region.
Here’s a bit about who Donovan is, what he brings to the organization and what the Trust hopes to achieve.
What’s your role with the Trust?
My role is to support the Trust’s broadband initiative, which focuses on ensuring that all people living in Basin communities can access fast, affordable, reliable connectivity.
Where did you work before?
I’m coming from Prince Rupert. I was there around eight years, working with CityWest. It’s a telecom company that provides internet, TV and phone services across northwest BC. One of the major projects I worked on was the Connected Coast project. It involves building submarine fibre to link all the communities along BC’s coast between Prince Rupert and Vancouver; it also wraps around Vancouver Island with a spur to Haida Gwaii. A pretty ambitious project!
Like the Trust, CityWest waslooking for innovative ways to connect hard-to-reach communities that couldn’t be connected via traditional methods. That was one of the things that really interested me about the role over here, is that the Trust is looking for creative ways to solve the connectivity problem for Basin residents.
What other education and experience do you bring?
I have an MBA in executive management from Royal Roads University. I’ve been in the telecom industry for just over 20 years, working with some large organizations like Bell and Northwestel and some smaller ones like CityWest and Infosat.
Earlier in my career, my work was more focused on remote connectivity, either satellite communications for the resource industry or trying to enhance connectivity for communities in the far north, including in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and some parts of northern BC.
More recently, I’ve often focused on bridging that urban-rural connectivity gap, trying to make sure people in rural parts of BC and the country aren’t getting lesser services than people in some of the larger, more densely populated areas. I was able to do quite a bit of that with CityWest, bringing fibre to homes in Smithers, Houston, Hazelton and First Nations communities like Metlakatla and Gitannmaax in Northwest BC.
I’m hoping to bring a lot of those learnings, experiences and stakeholder relationships to the Basin, and together with the talented broadband team and other Trust staff, continue to address the challenges around connectivity in the region.
Why is connectivity important?
Connectivity has always been an important conversation, but I think in the last year it has become a lot more important with people working from home, needing to access the digital economy, needing to access libraries and schools, and wanting to have online conversations. It provides access to all kinds of support services, health services and education initiatives. Without good connectivity, those things can’t happen. It also adds to community vibrancy and prosperity. The Trust heard Basin residents emphasize the need for good connectivity, and that’s why we are prioritizing this particular initiative.
How do you feel about what has been achieved so far?
I’m impressed with what the Trust has been able to accomplish so far: building a 1,000-kilometre backbone fibre network that smaller service providers can access at affordable rates. Now, these providers can offer affordable access to some of those previously underserved areas. In addition, this backbone is going to make connecting the last mile that much easier.
And what is coming up?
Moving forward we’ll continue to look proactively at identifying what connectivity gaps exist in the various communities and developing solutions. We’ll continue to be a champion for better connectivity in the Basin. We look forward to growing some of those relationships with key stakeholders, whether that’s local governments, local First Nations, large service providers or smaller ones. It’s about working with partners to get better access to residents’ homes.
You’re here with your family now?
I’m here in Castlegar with my wife Tara and our three boys. Aidan is studying political science online with the University of Victoria. Kiran is doing grade 11 at the high school in Castlegar. Asher is in grade seven in French immersion. My wife is a mixed-media artist, and she’s really looking forward to absorbing all that the Basin has to offer.
Are you new to the area?
I visited the area a couple of years ago when the broadband team was working on a project to lay fibre optic along Kootenay Lake. Last summer, we were able to drive through the Slocan Valley—just stunning! My family and I are super stoked to explore and check out all corners of the Basin when its safe to do so. As a Rotarian, I’m passionate about community development, so I’m looking forward to engaging with local organizations and learning and doing more in the community as well.
Do you have anything else to add?
There’s a lot of work ahead, but I’m excited about it. Together with the broadband team and all Trust staff, we’re looking forward to connecting the Basin.