By Roy L Hales
The Canadian government believes the internet is an essential service. Over the next three years, the “Connect to Innovate” program will invest $500 million to bring high-speed internet to 300 Canadian rural and remote communities whose existing service does not meet the national standard (50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload). A local ingredient is the sub-sea fibre optic cable, connecting communities between Prince Rupert and Vancouver, as well as around Vancouver Island. Victoria Smith, the Strathcona Regional District’s Special Projects and Sustainability Manager, confirmed that Cortes Island is a proposed recipient for improved high speed Internet.
Cortes Island Is A Proposed Recipient
“There are communities within Cortes that are proposed to be landing sites for this backbone network and that would improve the capacity and reliability of internet coming into the Cortes community and more broadly around the B.C. coast for the communities that we are able to potentially land in,” she said.
Dino Tsakonas, General Manager of the local internet provider Twincomm, confirmed that he has already met with Victoria a few times. He emailed me that “this will bring the main internet connections closer to some communities and allow Twincomm to purchase more affordable internet and get away from Telus as our internet provider.”
“Yes, we have spoken to Twincomm as part of developing this project initially and we are very aware of the good work that they do as well as many other ISPs [Internet Service Providers]operating in our region and beyond. At this stage, this is an investment in backbone infrastructure, or foundational infrastructure. The superhighway of data if you like, and there will be future opportunities to collaborate, we hope, with the existing ISPs to look at how we bring individual households onto this network.”
Connected Coast Project
Strathconna Regional District teamed up with CityWest, a telecommunications company owned by the city of Prince Rupert, for the “Connected Coast” project. The governments of Canada and British Columbia are giving them $45.4 million for a 3.5 million metres of cable that will bring, or improve, high speed internet for 154 rural or remote coastal communities, 44 of which are First Nations.
In addition to the new cable, this project also gives Prince Rupert access to another pathway for their data to travel when there are issues with parts of their network.
“The same goes for us. As well, I believe that Prince Rupert has had this telecommunications company for close to a hundred years. It started way back with the telephone. So they bring a lot of expertise to the table in terms of the telecommunications industry … and how that intersects with local government. That has been a great start for us,” said Smith.
The Connected Coast Project is expected to complete in 2021 or 2022.
“It will be constructed in phases and I do not have the exact information about who might benefit, and when, at this stage.”
Nor did she have any information pertaining to this project’s impact on future local internet rates. However Tsakonas emailed, “If anything this should help [prevent] connection costs [from] going up.”
“I feel very excited about this venture and really appreciate that we have a [Strathcona Regional District) board that has heard this from their constituents: that affordable broadband is very important to the communities. I certainly see so many reports that talk about the importance of this to rural and remote communities.”
(There is much more in the podcast above)
Top photo Credit: View from Cortes Island looking northeast – Roy L Hales photo.