By Mariah McCooey–Broadband internet service to the islands will be much faster and cheaper once the infrastructure is upgraded, says Jim Pazarena of Qcislands.net.
A recent agreement between the province and Telus means a significant part of the infrastructure cost will be paid for by the company ($2.1-billion worth), and all the islands’ communities are on the list to be hooked up by the end of March.
But this doesn’t mean that there will necessarily be access for everyone right away, said Mr. Pazarena. The upgrade will offer access to wholesale chunks of the bandwidth, which can be purchased by local internet service providers, and then sold to individual households.
But this is not a whole new thing, he said, it’s just changing a “one-lane highway to a superhighway.” There is already broadband internet here, transmitted through the air from Prince Rupert to a receiver in Masset and then sent by microwave transmission. But the small portion of bandwidth means that the on-island demand is far outstripping the supply. Right now, he said, service providers such as qcislands.net are paying for a superhighway, but only getting a one-lane road. Because the current capacity is so low, internet access here is considerably slower and more expensive than in other areas of the province.
But this will change once the capacity is “beefed up,” said Mr. Pazarena. The agreement between the province and Telus stipulates that underserved communities will be able to get wholesale broadband internet service at prices comparable to the lower mainland.
In addition, the improved “highway” will open up the possibility of cell phones, although this would be unlikely, said Mr. Pazarena.
Broadband has great potential, especially in education, said Mr. Pazarena. “As for what you can do with it, the sky’s the limit,” he said. He expects that as the price goes down, more and more people will come on board.
The Gwaii Trust announced last year that it had received funding from Industry Canada to upgrade broadband access to the islands. This was before the deal between Telus and the province, so the Gwaii Trust is now refocusing its efforts on creating community “POPs” or “Point of Presence”. POPs are central facilities for local delivery and support of broadband services. They are a closet full of equipment, similar to a telephone service panel/utility room in a commercial building, according to Gwaii Trust project manager Paul Daniell. Mr. Daniell was on the islands last week, assessing potential “POP” sites.
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