Tayler Adams uncoils a fiber-optic cable along Tow Hill Road on Jan. 14, 2016. Crews started laying the buried the cable from Masset to Tow Hill on Jan. 11, the first stretch of a $10 million GwaiiTel-led project to install a fibre-optic internet ‘backbone’ for internet users. (File photo/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Traffic keeps rising on GwaiiTel network

But hospitals, schools stick with overhead Telus line according to province-wide deal

Make no mistake, the islands’ new fibre-optic network is lit.

Carol Kulesha, chair of the non-profit GwaiiTel Society, says that in the last four years, traffic over the GwaiiTel internet network has grown from 70 to over 500 megabits per second (Mbps).

“We’re using a lot more internet,” Kulesha said, noting that anyone who gets access from the local internet service provider, Gwaii Communications, is using the new underground fibre-optic mainline that GwaiiTel buried between Old Massett and Skidegate last year.

Some readers wondered if the $10-million line was active at all after a vehicle hit a phone pole on Oct. 18, cutting off internet access to the Haida Gwaii Hospital and several other places south of Tlell for the day.

But that was another, separate fibre-optic network, run by Telus, that relies on overhead lines.

Not only the hospitals, but also schools and natural resource offices on island all connect to the internet through the Telus network — part of a 10-year, province-wide contract signed by Telus and the B.C. government in 2011.

Under the contract, Telus also provides a full suite of long-distance, conferencing, data, cellular and other telecommunications services.

Kulesha said GwaiiTel had hoped local schools, hospitals, and provincial offices would use its network instead, in part because it is buried along the highway rather than strung up on poles, so it should be less vulnerable to a cut.

“We were in negotiations with the province to supply them, but by the time we received the grant and built it, the province had signed with Telus,” Kulesha said.

“That was definitely a blow,” she added, since GwaiiTel had hoped schools and other provincial institutions would become anchor clients. The non-profit is still in talks with local federal agencies.

Kulesha said GwaiiTel’s next major challenge for improving internet service is to install a third set of microwave radio dishes to carry data across the Hecate Strait from Old Massett to Prince Rupert.

The current microwave link still has unused capacity, but with the way usage is increasing, Kulesha said it won’t be long before local users hit a bottleneck. Surprisingly, the quality of the Hecate link also goes down on sunny summer days when the ocean is calm.

Looking ahead, Kulesha said GwaiiTel is encouraging the province to lay an undersea cable to replace the microwave link.

“Even if they decided to lay the subsea cable right now, it will still take an enormous amount of time, a few years, for it all to come together,” she added, so the extra pair of microwave dishes will certainly be needed.

Besides a better Hecate link, GwaiiTel has applied for a federal grant to improve the smaller microwave radio link between Skidegate and Sandspit.

“We thought we had a clear shot to Skidegate, that the antenna was working well, but we did a study and it’s not,” Kulesha said. “So we have to do a better job for Sandspit.”

Separately, GwaiiTel has played a supporting role in Gwaii Communications’ application for federal grants — funding that would help the local company hook up new users in Tow Hill, Tlell, and other under-served areas. Without grant support, such “last-mile” connections could be prohibitively expensive.

“We’re all waiting for announcements,” Kulesha said. “I wait with bated breath.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Jennifer Rice BC NDP North Coast Incumbent was re-elected for a third according to the preliminary results on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Most Read