Like many who live on Haida Gwaii, Billy Yovanovich, Chief Councillor of Skidegate Band, has, at times, found it impossible to pay for something.
He once walked into a restaurant without noticing the handwritten sign in the window that said, “Cash only,” ordered and enjoyed his meal, only to discover the debit system was down because there was no internet service – again. He didn’t have any cash on hand.
“They said, ‘We know you, come back and pay later,’” Yovanovich jokes. “Everybody on the island just adjusts that way, right? If it’s not working, it’s not working.”
It’s great when businesses adapt to these types of hiccups, but learning to live with unreliable internet shouldn’t be necessary. In fact, years of slow, low-quality internet speeds have taken a toll on everyone – from customers to business owners to employees trying to work remotely.
“Sometimes people would just leave stores because they had to wait forever for their purchase to go through,” says Yovanovich. “It’s like, well, I don’t really need it right now. I’ll come back tomorrow when everything’s working.”
Connecting more communities
At some point, the “open access” Connected Coast project, funded by B.C.’s Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT) and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), will bring one GB speeds to numerous rural B.C. communities, which should reduce these types of scenarios, but it’s taking time for the initiative to be completed.
In the meantime, members of these communities shouldn’t have to wait for improved connectivity, which is where Mascon by TELUS comes in. The company has invested $10 million to upgrade the pre-existing broadband infrastructure.
“Mascon by TELUS let us know that they were willing to put in the infrastructure on their own dime and we were all for it,” Yovanovich notes.
The upgrades have enabled speeds of up to 120 Mbps on the Island – a level of connectivity expected to tide over Haida Gwaii residents until the Connected Coast project is completed and speeds of over 1G will be possible throughout Mascon by TELUS’ entire footprint.
“Our team is committed to building connectivity in rural communities, ensuring people have critical access to online healthcare, education and the ability to work from home,” said Janet Geddie, Senior Strategy Manager at Mascon by TELUS. “We feel genuinely honoured to be welcomed to Haida Gwaii and be able to give back to the community.”
The Mascon by TELUS investment is already making a difference. In 2017, Janine North and her husband purchased oceanfront property after visiting Haida Gwaii multiple times. There, they built Skyfall Cottage, a guest retreat, which has brought people to the island from all over the world. Consistent internet is important to the business’s success.
“You aren’t a destination of choice if people don’t have good internet connectivity to maintain some connection to their lives while they’re away recharging,” North says, adding that more reliable speeds have resulted in more bookings.
Connecting with communities
Yovanovich has also noticed a positive change – especially to his own ability to work remotely, a task that was often hampered by slow internet speeds.
“Downloading files was painstaking,” he notes. “Now you click on a file and it’s there. It’s what the rest of the world is used to.”
Beyond the infrastructure investments, Mascon by TELUS has made a point of investing in the communities on Haida Gwaii, something else Yovanovich and other Skidegate band members have seen first-hand.
“Since we agreed to work with Mascon by TELUS we’ve noticed they’re very engaged. They had representatives come to our Skidegate Days celebration, set up a booth and put themselves to work right away,” he shares. “The way that Mascon by TELUS has jumped in, our community is grateful.”
To learn how Mascon by TELUS is helping communities like Skidegate grow stronger, please visit mascon.ca/socialpurpose/