Telus Vancouver Island General Manager Ray Lawson was in the area last week updating local officials at the Regional District of Mount Waddington board meeting and business people on internet upgrades.
Telus has spent $13.5 million to install 146.5 kilometres of fibre which was completed in February, Lawson said.
On March 3 the fibre was in service. Telus is currently in the process of migrating 760 customers onto the new system in the Port McNeill area.
As of May 2, residents and businesses in Port McNeill will be able to benefit from the build and Telus services.
The migration of 889 customers in the District of Port Hardy is scheduled to start May 25.
Completion of the work in Port Hardy was delayed due to some challenges with the complex build along the way, including some damage to the existing fibre between Port Hardy and Port McNeill that required fixing before the new fibre could be laid, plus space and power issues. It has been one of those ‘anything that can go wrong will go wrong’ situations, Lawson said.
Customers in Port Hardy are expected to benefit from the new infrastructure starting June 16. “Everybody should start to see a big change here,” Lawson said.
Telus has also managed to upgrade service to the Village of Port Alice from 10mbps to 30mbps, Lawson said, a 200 per cent increase in capacity.
The next jump for Port Alice would be a radio upgrade at a cost of $1.2 million.
While it is not confirmed, Telus is hoping to install a small cell site in Woss in 2016 with a ballpark price tag of $1 million.
As for Hyde Creek, Alert Bay and other areas, Telus said any upgrades in Hyde Creek and Alert Bay would be very capital-intensive, and while they continue to review their plans for enhancing services in the area, to date they have no concrete plans for upgrades.
When asked when they would be in the plan, Lawson said “the year when they make economic sense.”
Town of Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland said she is concerned about connectivity for hospitals and felt access to internet and cell phone service along Highway 19 is not about economics.
“It’s about the right thing to do for the people that live here,” Ackland said.
“These are remote communities and they need to have access,” she said.
Lawson said internet access in these communities is going to require some work with the province and other partners.
“These upgrades are very expensive, and part of our review process is to see how we can benefit the largest number of people through our investments,” said Lawson, adding it is something that could be done through partnerships involving provincial and municipal governments and other companies.
“I don’t see Shaw at the table. I don’t see Rogers at the table. I don’t see Bell at the table,” he said.
The foundation is now in place for future developments.
“The area wins. If you go town by town, some towns don’t get anything right now, in other ones we’ve made a giant leap forward. You’re 146 kilometres ahead of where you were.”