Gwaii Communications to go all-island

Gwaii Communications plans to buy the south-end QCIslands Net internet network by the end of March to become an all-island ISP.

Light beams from a test strand of the underground fibre-optic line that the islands' non-profit GwaiiTel Society had installed between Old Massett

Light beams from a test strand of the underground fibre-optic line that the islands' non-profit GwaiiTel Society had installed between Old Massett

Haida Gwaii Internet services are set for a shake-up.

Based in the north end, Gwaii Communications plans to buy QCIslands Net and the Misty Isles TV Society to become the islands’ only local provider of Internet and digital TV.

Gwaii Communications has agreed to buy out the south-end QCIslands Net by March 31, according to GwaiiTel, Haida Gwaii’s non-profit telecom society.

“Our goal is to try and build a communications company that is island-wide,” said Joe Lavoie, speaking to Queen Charlotte council last week together with his brother Jeff.

“The only way to keep a viable, local provider on Haida Gwaii is to offer both TV and Internet services,” said the Lavoies.

“It all has to be under one roof, because the population just isn’t here,” said Jeff.

When Gwaii Communications took over the cable TV network run by the non-profit Masset Haida TV Society, the society was about a month from going bankrupt, said Joe.

Now, in the south end, the non-profit Misty Isles TV Society that offers cable TV to Queen Charlotte, Skidegate, and Sandspit is just barely paying its bills as customers move from the analog cable service to digital TV packages offered by Shaw and Bell.

Gwaii Communications is now in talks with Misty Isles, and if it does buy the network, it can convert it to digital cable to better compete with bigger, off-island players.

By purchasing QCIslands Net, Gwaii Communications would move away from QCI’s wireless Internet connections in the south-end, first by using the existing Misty Isles co-axial cable network.

“Co-ax would be a big improvement,” said Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin.

“Many of us already have it going to our houses and aren’t using it.”

Haida Gwaii communities are linked by a very fast, fibre-optic mainline that GwaiiTel had installed last year.

But hooking up individual homes to that fibre-optic network is a pricey proposition.

With federal grant support, a new pricing agreement with GwaiiTel, and several stages of ‘last-mile’ connections, Gwaii Communications hopes to eventually build a fully fibre-optic network and offer unlimited data plans.

“Fibre is the ultimate,” said Jim Pazarena, owner of QCIslands Net.

“I’ve always had it as one of my mandates to provide the best internet to the islands. Well, the best internet would be fibre.”

While Pazarena has upgraded QCIslands’ wireless systems and could do so again by switching to the high-speed LTE technology used by cell-phone providers, in the long run, he said no technology has more capacity or speed than fibre-optics.

If all goes to plan, Gwaii Communications hopes to offer download speeds of up to 100 Mbps twice what Canada’s telecom regulator recently set as a desirable benchmark for high-speed internet.

Recently, Telus began selling competitive internet packages on Haida Gwaii using a Smart Hub an LTE-equipped device that basically works like a cell phone hotspot.

For anyone living where there is a strong cell-phone signal, Pazarena said Telus’ 250- and 500-gigabyte per month packages are tough for local internet service providers to compete with right now.

“I think the pricing of the Telus Smart Hub will force Gwaii Tel to be more reasonable in their pricing for the local ISPs,” he said.

Satellite internet providers such as Xplornet also have customers on Haida Gwaii, mainly in places where local Internet can’t reach yet. The company launched a new satellite in December, and plans to launch a second one soon to offer higher speeds.

Looking longer-term, Pazarena believes a local, fibre-optic based service is the islands’ best bet, not only for speed, but also for service to underserved areas.

Gwaii Communications is now applying for federal and provincial grants that will cut the cost of making so-called ‘last-mile’ Internet connections to the fibre-optic main line, particularly for households in spread-out places such as Tlell.

“We’re trying to bring that household cost down to a minimum,” said Jeff Lavoie, speaking before Queen Charlotte councillors voted in support of the company’s grant proposal.

“If we have to ask $300 or $400 per household, that’s not the end of the world. But $3,000 or $9,000 per lot is.”

 

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

Just Posted

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

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 man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Most Read