Tayler Adams uncoils a fibre-optic cable along Tow Hill Road on Jan. 14, 2016, the first stretch of a GwaiiTel project that brought a $10-million internet ‘backbone’ from Old Massett down to Skidegate. A new federal program may see funding for the pricey “last-mile” connections between the main fibre-optic line and people’s homes in Tow Hill, Port Clements, Tlell, Lawn Hill, Miller Creek, as well as an underwater cable between Graham and Moresby Islands. (File photo/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Gwaii Tel pushes for complete fibre-optic coverage

Society waiting on approval for $6M in federal grants to connect main communities

Gwaii Tel has taken its first steps to bringing high-speed Internet to all remaining households on Haida Gwaii.

The non-profit society has filed applications for two grants totalling $6.1 million to establish distribution networks in the villages of Old Massett, Skidegate, Queen Charlotte and Masset.

Sandspit, Miller Creek, Lawn Hill, Port Clements, Tlell and Tow Hill Road will be served by a $4.94-million project currently being built.

Gwaii Tel has applied to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program for $4.57 million of the cost, and to the All Nations Trust’s Pathways to Technology Program for the $1.5 million remainder.

Provided the grants are approved, once the infrastructure is in place Gwaii Tel will consult with the communities and elected officials on how the network will be managed. Two options include the common practice of leasing it out to private ISPs, or running it as a municipal and band council service.

Gwaii Tel Society Chair Evan Putterill says it will take at least a year to complete the build.

“I want to keep people’s expectations in line,” he says. “From the time it’s approved — if it’s approved — it should be done in a minimum of one year.

The network will tap into the new fibre backbone running the length of Graham Island. City West will eventually connect Haida Gwaii with a sub-sea fibre build to Prince Rupert, part of a $45 million federally-sponsored project to bring fibre-optic cable 154 communities up and down B.C.’s coast.

“It all fits into this goal of having 100-per-cent fibre-optic connections on Haida Gwaii,” Putterill says, but cautions there are some isolated roads with a couple of homes this latest project may not be able to serve.

“But what we want to do, if we get the approval, is go out and do the mapping and plans for those areas. Hopefully we can wrap them into this project and find another little pocket of money to apply for. The intent would be to cover them in this current project but we just don’t have those detailed plans yet.”

The federal funding is made available with the aim of ensuring all Canadian homes have access to internet speeds of 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up. Gwaii Tel plans to exceed those speeds to all households and businesses.

The print version of this story misquoted Evan Puterill saying the build will be completed within a year of receiving the grant when in fact he said it will be a minimum of one year. The online story above has been corrected. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.



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