A map shows the planned route of the Connected Coast fibre-optic cable. (Haida Gwaii Observer file)

Connected Coast project leads request extension to 2023

Islanders struggling with slower internet speeds amid pandemic

Haida Gwaii residents who have been struggling with connectivity issues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will not be saved by the Connected Coast project any time soon.

According to an email sent by Joshua McLeod, the constituency assistant for North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, project leads CityWest and the Strathcona Regional District have formally requested an extension from March 2021 to March 2023.

The $45.5 million government-funded project to install a new sub-sea backbone transport cable along the west coast of B.C. was approved in January 2018. However, CityWest, the project lead for the north, only sent out a request for proposal (RFP) for project design and a construction contractor on Aug. 28.

The RFP is on the BC Bid website, with a closing date of Sept. 8. After the RFP closes, Chris Armstrong, director of marketing for CityWest, told the Observer the company will immediately start the permitting process so they can be “in the water by next summer.”

ALSO READ: CityWest pitches subsea fibre-optic cable for fast, reliable internet

Asked about the delay, Armstrong said “this is a complex project with many stakeholders involved, and in many ways it is the first of its kind.”

He also said CityWest underwent a CEO transition and “wanted a new CEO in place before continuing with the project.”

The departure of former CEO Chris Marett was announced in January and Armstrong said the new CEO, Stefan Woloszyn, had his first day on the job on Aug. 10.

ALSO READ: Subsea internet cable to link up Haida Gwaii

In the meantime, islanders are saying a pandemic-induced overload on the internet has compounded their existing connectivity issues.

Queen Charlotte resident Tracy Gilson, who works remotely for a neurologist, told the Observer her Mascon connection has recently been “very frustrating.”

Mascon is a brand of Telus, which acquired Gwaii Communications in January.

Gilson said she routinely has to check and redo tasks during her work day, such as making sure emails to patients were successfully sent.

“Sometimes they don’t go through because of the internet,” she said. “It’s really stressful when you have to send things to people on a timeline.”

After putting in extra hours to complete her required tasks, Gilson said she would like to be able to go online and enjoy videos or music to de-stress, but, “sometimes you can’t even load any social media. It’s just spinning and spinning.”

“For people who are in quarantine … they should be able to access their service. It’s really important for mental health right now,” she said.

ALSO READ: ‘When it gets pulled there’s nothing left’: Haida Gwaii losing Xplornet

“Frustrating” was also the word used by Old Massett resident Kun Kayangas Marlene Liddle when describing her connectivity issues as of late.

Liddle told the Observer she invested in a TELUS Smart Hub about two years ago and her service has become significantly worse since the pandemic started.

“It might have to do more with COVID and everybody on it,” she said.

Despite paying for the 500 GB monthly data plan, which according to the TELUS website costs $80 a month after the first year, she said she often opts to use cellular data on her phone to complete important tasks such as online banking, rather than risk her unpredictable WiFi connection.

“It’s become worse recently probably within the last three months,” she said. “To not be able to watch a movie … seems to be pretty bad.”

Liddle’s unreliable internet connection has also impacted her online security, she added.

As a weaver of red and yellow cedar bark, she often has grant applications to fill out, but because she gets “timed out,” she has been forced to ask a friend in Vancouver to submit applications on her behalf.

“That means I have to give her passwords,” she said. “This is a good case of why our capacity needs to be increased and our speed.”

Do you have something we should report on? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Internet and Telecom

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

Just Posted

Subsea fibre optics running from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal Communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13.
Subsea fibre optics running from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13. (Black Press Media)
CityWest to refresh subsea fibre optics project

Fibre optics project to run cable from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii then south to Vancouver

Federal NDP looks to criminalize domestic emotional abuse with new law

MP Randall Garrison introduces private member’s bill

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

Kelly Lynn Whitney has been acclaimed as the successful candidate on Oct. 16, in the Village of Port Clements by Election. Seen in photos Kelly Whitney-Gould is pictured putting finishing touches on “Ms. Gnomer’s Home 4 Wayward Folk.” (Kelly Whitney-Gould/Submitted photo)
Kelly Lynn Whitney acclaimed in By Election

Village of Port Clements By Election success

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

One of the squirrels who ended up having their tails amputated after getting them stuck together with tree sap. (Facebook/Wild ARC)
Squirrels recovering from tail amputation after sap situation near Victoria

BC SPCA Wild ARC says squirrels will be released back into wild, fifth sibling was euthanized

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Most Read