Gwaii Trust begins negotiations on high-speed internet

  • May. 14, 2004 8:00 a.m.

Islanders may be able to hook up to high-speed broadband internet as early as next spring, according to Tanu Lusignan, administator of the Gwaii Trust.
The trust met last Wednesday and decided to go ahead with pursuing the $700,000 offered by Ottawa to bring high-speed service to the islands, while at the same time trying to convince islands’ communities that they -not the trust- should administer it once it’s running.
“We are looking at six months of negotiations, from there we are hoping by the spring of 2005, and ideally hand it over the the community organization that the communities initiate,” Mr. Lusignan said.
The Gwaii Trust plans to use Ottawa’s money to build two microwave towers, one in Masset, the other in Prince Rupert, and to try to convince Telus to swap use of its fiber-optic network on the islands for use of the new towers. The trust will also be talking to other telecommunications companies, including Alcatel and Navigata. The money will also subsidize monthly rates for five years, so islanders can expect to pay about the same as in major cities.
High-speed internet “Â… is not something the Gwaii Trust feels is our business,” director Warren Foster said at the Wednesday meeting, “we would be quite pleased if someone else could take on this mandate.”
The day before, the trust met with elected leaders from most communities on the islands, and made the suggestion that they form a new group to administer the service. The trust also received the support of those leaders to get the service up and running.
Ottawa is providing the money to twenty-five isolated communities nationwide, saying the service will allow users to access commercial and government services, increasing investment here and providing carreer opportunities, as well as offering better access to health care services and education. Broadband is high-capacity, fast internet and can support real-time audio and video, among other things. It has been likened to infrastructure such as highways, which create opportunities for communities which have them and economic stagnation for those which don’t.