The $45.4 million Connected Coast project finished installing 87 kilometres of fibre optic cable connecting Haida Gwaii to Bonilla Island, just south of Prince Rupert, the Ministry of Citizens’ Services announced on July 4.
On June 29 the cable-laying ship arrived in Tlell after installing cable along the ocean floor across the Hectate Strait, which will be the backbone of infrastructure.
This will be the first time people on Haida Gwaii will be able to access the internet through a fibre-optic cable. The Connected Coast website states that fibre optic technology is the favoured method for delivering data because it has the largest capacity for transferring data.
It’s “going to be transformational to people’s lives here on the island,” Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services said.
She made announcements about the new connection in Old Massett and in Queen Charlotte on July 4.
“There’s recognition at every event of what this means for the economy on the island, what it means for people and for families.”
Beare explained how reliable, high-speed internet will enable people to expand their businesses. Artists will be able to sell their goods in an international online market and tourism companies will be able to develop a greater online presence.
High-speed internet is also important for residents.
“I had the opportunity to spend all day with families from Old Massett up at Tow Hill yesterday and seeing all the children, my daughter being able to play with all the children, who now are going to be able to access education online or access telehealth when they need a pediatric specialist… it’s having those community connection pieces as well as the economic opportunities,” Beare said.
“This is a huge milestone for Haida Gwaii. While it is known for being one of the most isolated places in B.C., high-speed internet will reduce the strain of that isolation and allow residents of Haida Gwaii to fully participate in today’s digital world,” Jennifer Rice, North Coast MLA, said.
“This opens up a world of opportunities and provides access to services critical for safety. This project would not have been possible without First Nations leadership and the federal and local governments.”
The project is funded by the federal and provincial governments and managed by CityWest and the Strathcona Regional District.
The next step in the project is connecting the main fibre-optic cable with each household. These final connections will be built over the next year by service providers, Beare said.
Announced in 2018, the Connected Coast project will bring high-speed internet to approximately 139 rural and remote communities, including 48 First Nations communities, along the B.C. coast from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii, south to Vancouver and to Vancouver Island. The project is approximately 45 per cent complete with more than 500 kilometres of fibre-optic cable laid and 21 landing sites completed.
Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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