313 homes in the North East region of the District of Port Hardy still don’t have Telus Fibre Optic installed, forcing residents to attend a Committee of the Whole meeting to demand answers as to when the service will finally be provided to them.
“I think everybody in the district knows Telus has been working on providing fibre to the community, and so far they’ve put fibre, or the possibility of fibre, into 2,600 homes,” said Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood at the start of the meeting, which was also attended by four Telus representatives.
“If you look at the community of Port Hardy, we have subdivided it for network design and planning into nine fibre serving areas,” said Zouheir Mansourati, Telus’ Vice President of Broadband Networks. “We’ve already built eight of them and these were done last summer in a fairly quick manner between May and August of this year, and it went without any glitches… It soon became very clear to us in the ninth fibre serving area we were hitting rock and it was not going to stop.”
Mansourati added that was when Telus decided to halt installation. “We looked at it, had discussions with the district, and we are now looking at redesigning the area with certain adjustments in order to find a commercially viable way to actually take that fibre to the remaining homes and businesses.”
Port Hardy is not the first community that Telus has had difficulties installing fibre in, stated Mansourati. “We do encounter difficulties sometimes, and this is no different than those… In January we will do the redesign, we will come to an agreement with the town, and then we will build soon after that. Our objective is if we do find a way to build it in a cost effective way, the build will happen next year, most likely in the summer season.”
Chief Administrative Officer Allison McCormick said the specific area of town affected is “Landon Crescent, Mayors Way, and then your Upper Carnarvon area, all the way down to Numas and Cedar Place,” adding they are also looking in to whether Cedar Heights Trailer Park has had fibre installed or not.
Mansourati was unable to say who Telus would be contracting to finish the ninth fibre serving area. “At this point I’m not in a position to tell you who it would be, it would depend on the type of work and the complexity of the work involved.”
Ken Smith, a resident who lives in the affected area of town, said he is “a retired Telus guy and I’ve lived here a long time — when I hear you talking about some areas you might not be able to provide fibre to, and I understand that concept, what I want to know is, is West Eagle Crescent one of them?”
“I’m unable to tell you because we are redesigning the engineering,” replied Mansourati.
Smith said he has been having issues with his Telus internet connection for awhile now, “And when my wife’s at the other end of the house and she has to holler down and say she doesn’t have any speed, she can’t get her emails, she can’t do this, she can’t do that, I mean, she’s trying to run a home business here… I’m hoping Telus finds a way around dealing with what’s underground, because I know for a fact there were some questions as to where the services were located.”
“Our goal is to come to Port Hardy and employ fibre to as many areas as possible,” said Mansourati. “We can never overcome every possible physical hurdle we bump into, but our objective is to take fibre to at least 90 per cent of Port Hardy, and the reason we say 90 per cent and not 100 per cent, is because based on experience, there are some locations we just can’t reach.”
“Did I understand you correctly that after the engineering study is done, there might be some areas that its impossible to run fibre optic?” asked Jack Masterman, another resident who lives in the affected area of town.
“It could be,” said Mansourati, adding, “we are not necessarily eliminating that possibility. I want to be very careful in my language by not saying we will do 100 per cent, because we have ran into certain situations in the past — we would rather say let’s wait to see what the engineering will tell us and then we can indicate where and when we will do it.”
Bood jumped back into the conversation at that point, stating, “The goal here is to provide fibre to everybody in the area even if it is a particularly difficult thing to do… We had a very productive meeting earlier today, and I said during the meeting I was really pleased with the quality of people Telus has sent up here, and we are looking to move forward next year to get fibre to as many people as we possibly can.”
Telus has invested “until this point, about 11 million dollars — and we expect this last fibre serving area to have a cost that is higher than average,” said Mansourati. “I can’t quote a number at this point, we will have wait for the engineering work and the discussions with the town.”
According to Telus’ website, “The Telus Fibre Optic Network is a new network built from flexible, transparent fibres of glass that are slightly thicker than human hair. The fibres transmit data as particles of light, allowing large volumes of information to be sent to your home or business at close to the speed of light. This lets you enjoy the latest in technology, entertainment and communication and blazing-fast Internet speeds.”