The water tower in Port McNeill's public works yard rises above a nearby communications antenna.

High-speed gets fast tracked

A local cable company is poised to open internet access to new customers almost immediately, pending approval by council.

PORT McNEILL—With internet access at maximum capacity on the North Island, residents and businesses have eagerly awaited the arrival in late 2014 of fibre-optic cable, currently being placed by Telus Communications along Highway 19.

But a small, local cable company is poised to open access to new customers almost immediately, pending approval by Port McNeill Council.

Dave Emery, owner of North Island Communications of Campbell River, submitted an application to the Town to install an Internet antenna atop the town’s water tower, which would relay a microwave signal from a twin antenna in Alert Bay and feed additional bandwidth into Keta Cable’s fibre-optic line in Port McNeill.

“Currently there’s precious little Internet here,” Emery informed Council during its regular meeting Monday. “There are stop-sell orders from both Telus and Keta Cable, and no alternate source of Internet whatsoever.

“Keta Cable is unable to purchase any more bandwidth from Telus until that fibre-optic line comes in, but that’s going to be late 2014 by the time they get done. We can deliver now.”

Keta Cable, which delivers both high-speed Internet access and cable television to subscribers in several areas across the North Island, is prepared to deliver “several hundred megabits” of bandwidth, purchased from Shaw Communications, to its cable hub in Port McNeill.

Should the application for installation of the antennae be approved and construction completed, Keta Cable would be able to offer Internet access to new customers through its cable modems. The extra bandwidth might also serve to alleviate the “prime time” slowdown of traffic that some subscribers experience in the early evening hours.

North Island Communications, which has previously installed systems on the North Island for fire and ambulance dispatch, and forestry repeaters, was contracted by Keta Cable to deliver the extra bandwidth.

The first step, which Emery said was relatively easy to accomplish, involved shooting a microwave signal from Campbell River to a repeater atop Newcastle Ridge, which has a clear sight line to Cormorant Island.

“That’s a key relay station between Campbell River and Alert Bay,” said Emery. “Rogers, Telus, we’re all on a tower on that ridge.”

North Island Communications installed an antennae on the bilge of the water tower in Alert Bay, but ran into a snag when it climbed Keta’s tower on Mine Road to install the receiving antennae.

“We found trees were obstructing the path of the signal,” said Emery. “The signals are weak enough off these dishes and concentrated enough, they have to be line of sight.”

With permission of Mayor Gerry Furney, Emery’s crews climbed the town’s water tower and determined it was the ideal site to pick up the signal from the Alert Bay antennae.

Emery assured council the installation would be very non-invasive. The lightweight, aluminum dish, approximately four feet in diameter, would be clamped to the metal railing atop the tower.

“There would be no drilling or modifications to the water tank in any way,” he said.

Furney asked Emery what the Town might expect in the way of a rental fee from Keta Cable for the use of its water tower.

“We expect to pay our fair share,” Emery said. “It varies from community to community but, based on historical information, putting an antennae on a tower or building tends to be about $150 a month, typically.”

Furney thanked Emery for his presentation and said council would deliberate the application before getting back to North Island Communications with its answer.