GwaiiTel seeks money to complete key project

  • Aug. 16, 2013 2:00 p.m.

GwaiiTel is applying to the Gwaii Trust for money to finish the radio link to the mainland that is expected to greatly improve internet service. Funding for the million-dollar link, requiring towers in both Old Massett and Prince Rupert, ran out earlier this summer, although GwaiiTel officials were tight-lipped about the problem and any possible solutions. But Monday evening in Queen Charlotte, council approved sending a letter of support to the Gwaii Trust on behalf of GwaiiTel. “This letter is to support the application being made by GwaiiTel to Gwaii Trust for immediate infrastructure grant funding to see the completion (of the project),” the letter says. It adds that the radio link is of vital importance for the growth of Haida Gwaii’s broadband capacity, “and has our community’s full support and our recommendation for your financial support.” While the letter does not indicate the amount of money being sought, Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha, who is also chair of GwaiiTel, told the Observer the project needs $250,000, an extra 25 percent over the original budget. The funding application went to Gwaii Trust “about a week ago” Ms Kulesha said. It’s expected Gwaii Trust will make a decision early next month. “The project is continuing to move ahead. The funding will come from other sources if we don’t get it from Gwaii Trust. But it’s going to be difficult,” Ms Kulesha said. Construction of the Prince Rupert tower started last summer but was delayed by legal problems, when DFO, the Coast Guard and Nav Canada intervened. GwaiiTel ended up redesigning and relocating the tower to address the concerns. But that slowed the project, and construction had to stop earlier than expected when the weather turned in October. In Old Massett, construction of the tower finished last week, with the crew moving to Rupert to resume work there. GwaiiTel is a non-profit society owned jointly by the communities of Haida Gwaii, which was formed to bring broadband internet service to the islands. The new link will provide an additional 360 megabits/second, a big increase from the 70 mbps the islands now receive through the Telus link. The new link will have the potential to be upgraded to 720 mbps. That is expected to be adequate for a few years, and GwaiiTel continues to work on a long-term solution. Demand for internet service in the islands grown substantially since GwaiiTel was formed in 2006, with the number of connections more than tripling and usage volume growing more than 25 times.