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)

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)

Tlellagraph: Looking forward to healthy fibre-optics and connectivitea

“Tlell for One! And All for Tlell!”

Or maybe not… looks like only part of Tlell will be feeling the fibre.

We recently heard from our Gwaii Trust rep Berry Wijdeven that Gwaii Trust is supporting a federal application by Gwaii Communications to expand the fibre-optic internet capacity in Tow Hill, Port Clements, Tlell, Lawn Hill, and Miller Creek as well as installing an underwater cable to Moresby Island.

For Tlell, this means that fibre-optic connectors will go down Wiggins and Richardson Roads, to homes and businesses along Highway 16, and along Beitush Road to the Haida House.

As a Beitush resident, I’m pleased. But no Tlellian likes to leave other Tlellians behind. Already questions were being raised as to what we can do to enhance this application (we can’t), or get in on a further application that will see everyone from South Tlell to North Tlell enjoying the fibre.

Originally, we were being asked to contribute $50,000 towards the project from our Gwaii Trust Vibrant Community Fund. Now the funding is coming from other Gwaii Trust streams and our community money will be left untouched.

This is a good news and a bad news situation. Good news? More money for local projects, such as a functional and inviting community space. Bad news? We now have no say over how this project goes.

I’m waiting to hear more details from Gwaii Communications. But the reaction of Tlell residents left off-grid got me thinking about this thing we call the internet, and the sense that it’s vital to human existence now.

I’m not disputing its importance. Certainly we all need reliable internet. We are currently on Xplornet and have been though more satellites and systems than I can remember. One was working fairly well for us, though watching Netflix often required an elaborate ceremony, sometimes involving the sacred sacrifice of a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

However, Xplornet decommissioned that satellite and we went through quite a process to get hooked up to an older system while they figure out what to do. We outliers won’t be able to hook up to the next satellite that everyone else is being transitioned to.

This inconvenience had us feeling like we had really been wronged, that our basic rights as customers paying for a service that connected us to the world wasn’t being respected. I imagine this is what the left-out Tlellians are feeling: “How could you not think of us?”

Stay tuned, I’m hoping to connect with a Gwaii Communications representative this week to get more answers.

I’m going to date myself a little here. My first connection with the internet was on a computer in the basement of my university residence. Next to the laundry room, there was a windowless room with two large computers. You could log on through a very special combination of keystrokes. Then the black screen with yellow script would allow me to send a message to my friend in Japan.

This was electronic mail. It was magic.

Now the internet goes with us everywhere, and it isn’t yellow type on a black screen anymore. It’s full colour, showing us images, videos, and graphics in sometimes entirely too much detail.

As my children age, I’m becoming increasingly terrified of the internet and the world that it opens up to them. So many amazing things, and so many horrible, awful, scary things. As we all demand connectivity, we can no longer insulate our children against the darker corners of the human psyche.

What we can do, however, is challenge them to use the internet in healthy ways. I recently read an article about a mom who challenged her kids to stay off social media until they were 16 years old. She called it #16by16 — if successful, her kids will get $1,600 for resisting the social media accounts that “all their friends have.”

Is it enough? I’m going to try.

Allowing our kids unfettered access to social media at a young age is like giving them the keys to the car before they have any idea how to drive. And it’s just as dangerous and potentially deadly.

So as we’re “hanging by a fibre” here in Tlell, remember the importance of old school connectivity. Invite your neighbour for tea. Invite me at sewnart@haidagwaii.net!

Yes, I see the irony there…

Tlellagraph