New GwaiiTel board appointed

  • Dec. 5, 2014 4:00 p.m.

A new board of directors has been appointed to oversee the operations of the GwaiiTel Society, the non-profit organization that provides broadband Internet access on Haida Gwaii.At the GwaiiTel annual general meeting on Nov. 18 in Port Clements, chair Carol Kulesha said the society received several applications from people interested in being directors and chose five, trying to find a mix of skills and backgrounds. Ms. Kulesha, a member of the interim board, exempted herself from the process as she was one of those seeking a seat on the new board.The five new directors are: Patrick Shannon, Berry Wijdeven, Ryan Barber, Clyde Greenough and Ms. Kulesha.The new directors elected Ms. Kulesha to continue as chair and Mr. Wijdeven as secretary-treasurer.The seven communities of Haida Gwaii and the Council of the Haida Nation own GwaiiTel’s infrastructure. Community representatives will continue to be members of the board and will meet when required, but regular GwaiiTel operations are now in the hands of the new directors, who are not aligned with any particular community or interest.Ms. Kulesha said GwaiiTel has seen explosive growth in the past year, with broadband traffic up by 300 per cent. The society has been trying to improve its infrastructure and during 2013-14 it installed new hardware at almost all of its locations, improved the connection between Queen Charlotte and Masset, and upgraded Port Clements to a higher capacity connection.But there is more work to be done and Ms. Kulesha said the society will be applying for grants in the coming year to make more improvements.Directors went over the financial statements for the 2013-14 year with auditor Jeremy Pierce of Vohora and Company. Revenue for the year came to $332,000, up from $267,000 the year before, and almost all of it came from network access and usage fees paid by Internet service providers, or ISPs. The higher revenue reflects the increased bandwidth use. Expenses also increased, mainly due to higher professional fees. After subtracting expenses from revenue, the society was left with $53,678.”For a not-for-profit, financially, it’s quite healthy,” Mr. Pierce said.Four members of the public attended the meeting with three of them from Port Clements, an area that continues to experience Internet challenges.”We’re encouraging you to improve our internet and our cell phone service,” Marilyn Bliss told the board.Ms. Kulesha said they will try their best on the Internet front and are still trying to figure out some of Port’s problems. GwaiiTel does not have anything to do with cell phone service, she added.General manager Lori Wiedeman presented the new board with pilot financial policies, a governance overview and a communications plan. The communications plan notes that islanders appear to have little understanding of the role played by GwaiiTel and don’t know who to turn to when they experience slow and inconsistent Internet service.”To date, GwaiiTel’s communications hasn’t been effective or consistent with the general public or its stakeholders,” the plan reads. “There is generally a lack of understanding among the public about the challenges associated with providing Internet service on Haida Gwaii, exacerbated by an increasing expectation for more bandwidth and faster connection speeds.”The plan calls for GwaiiTel to communicate much more with islanders. The society is working on a new website and is also considering a Facebook presence.

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