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

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:
karissa.gall@blackpress.ca.


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

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

FILE – Residents of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory southwest of Montreal continue to monitor a blockade leading to blocked railroad tracks that pass through their community as they protest in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on Sunday, March 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe
B.C. Supreme Court rejects Wet’suwet’en bid to toss LNG pipeline certificate

Opposition last year by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs set off Canada-wide rail blockades

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Most Read