West Coast fibre build back online

The West Coast dialed up an early dose of holiday cheer for local web surfers last week by announcing high-speed fibre optic Internet will arrive in 2016.  

The project, which will bring increased Internet speed and capacity to West Coast communities, is expected to run a tab of roughly $13 million with the cost being shared by Telus, BC Hydro, All Nations Trust Company and the Province.

Telus will cover the lion’s share of the bill and expects to spend about $10 million.

The work involves Hydro replacing over 300 poles along a roughly 65 km stretch of Highway 4 for Telus to string fibre optic cables through, according to Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers.

Louwers told the Westerly the brunt of Hydro’s work, which is weather dependent, will kick off in the spring of 2015 and will bring traffic delays to the highway.  

“We expect the work to be complete by Sept 30 2015, that’s our commitment,” she said. “The work has been awarded to a contractor and essentially has begun.”

Assuming everything goes to plan on Hydro’s end, Telus expects to have the West Coast connected to fibre optic Internet by early 2016, according to Telus spokesperson Liz Sauve.

The same project was announced in March last year but was hung up a few months later when Telus ran into a budget overrun and took a step back to reassess.

“We all just needed to come back to the table and figure out exactly how we were going to do this because $10 million is a huge investment and we want to make sure that, if we’re doing it, we’re doing it the right way,” Sauve said.

She assured no further stalls are on the horizon and said Telus is now committed to investing “at least $10 million” to see the project reach fruition.

“We’ve committed to this, it’s in the budget, it’s absolutely happening,” she said. “We’re all really excited.”

She acknowledged locals may be wary of the announcement having heard the same thing last year but said the situation is different this time around and noted last week’s announcement was backed by a media released issued by BC’s Ministry of Technology Innovation and Citizens’ Services’.

“Internet connectivity is increasingly essential in today’s world, and that’s why projects like this one, made possible by a collaborative partnership between the Province, TELUS, BC Hydro, and All Nations Trust Company, are so important for British Columbians,” said Technology Innovation and Citizens’ Services minister Andrew Wilkinson through the release.

“This new connection will have a lasting impact on the west coast of Vancouver Island, bringing better service to the families and businesses in the region.”
Sauve said the $10 million investment was an important one for Telus to make because the company has run out of room for new customers on the West Coast.

“Our services out there were at a point where we were managing them for all our existing customers and that capacity wasn’t there for all of these new customers,” she said.

“It’s going to enhance the speeds currently available and it’s also dramatically increasing the capacity…That means the congestion’s going to be alleviated and then we can offer our services to more customers and everyone is going to have access to faster speeds.”

She said fibre optic technology will help local businesses “operate locally while competing globally because they’re now going to have access to super fast Internet,” and added the West Coast’s tourism industry will greatly benefit from the capacity increase.

“Now that industry can offer their guests high speed Internet during their stay which is really critical. Everywhere you travel these days people need to stay connected whether it’s because they need to touch in with work and check on some emails or they’re working remotely or they want to stay in touch with friends and family,” she said.

“Then you look at industries like health care and education and all of the opportunities there for how they can innovate and deliver services, not only when the build is complete but into the future because the fibre is really going to lay the groundwork and the backbone for the continuous improvement and enhancement of technology in the area.”

She said the fibre, once installed, will provide a road for Telus to make wireless upgrades down the line.

“It’s basically creating that road for us to enhance capacity from a wireless perspective,” she said.

“It’s providing the backbone, if you will, for wireless enhancements in the future…Years from now when we need to enhance capacity for wireless, this build’s already laid that groundwork for us to be able to do that.”

She said communication between local leaders, Telus, Hydro, the All Nations Trust Company and the Province was key in helping the project move forward.

“It took all of us working together to make this happen, everyone identified it as a priority,” she said.

“It’s going to have a really positive lasting impact on everyone on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca