Internet connections can be sketchy in communities such as Hornby Island. Photo courtesy Mountain Bike BC

Internet connections can be sketchy in communities such as Hornby Island. Photo courtesy Mountain Bike BC

Hornby/Denman group lobbies for high-speed internet infrastructure

A working group has appealed to rural directors to help bring high-speed fibre optic internet infrastructure to Hornby and Denman islands, which fall within Area A of the Comox Valley Regional District.

The process would involve joining Connected Coast, a consortium to bring improved internet to coastal communities.

“We’re looking for landing sites to subsea cable from Vancouver to Prince Rupert that then circles back around Vancouver Island,” Hornby/Denman Internet Committee member Karen Ross said in a Jan. 11 presentation to the Electoral Area Services Committee.

It took a great deal of lobbying to reopen a file that had excluded the islands in an initial application of 152 communities, she added.

“If we get acceptance and get those landing sites, there’s now 154. Many of those communities are Indigenous, and the federal funding is supporting rural communities of B.C.”

Landing sites would be located south of the Denman and Hornby ferry terminals on Lambert Channel.

A second part of the process involves the installation of ‘last mile’ infrastructure with fibre optic high-speed service. Last mile refers to the final leg of telecommunication networks that deliver services to customers. There is a Feb. 15 deadline to apply for federal funds.

The group hopes the CVRD will prioritize delivery of fibre optic to the premise infrastructure.

“The landing sites will be installed spring and summer of 2021,” said Ross, noting the difficulty of conducting business on Hornby or Denman when one is kicked off a call. “Phase one is Vancouver to Campbell River. It means that Hornby and Denman will be one of the first communities to get their landing sites. If we’re ready to go with our funding and our sponsorship for the last mile, we’ll be one of the first communities that could have that last mile infrastructure installed. So the timing on this is really critical.”

A staff report says internet service on Denman and Hornby is below a national standard of 50/10 download/upload speed set by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). There may be an opportunity to support improved services through a partnership with the Strathcona Regional District and the Connected Coast project, which includes undersea fibre running between Denman and Hornby. A partnership with Connected Coast related to the landing sites — before subsea fibre is installed — requires $142,000 from the community. Installing fibre on the Islands after installing subsea fibre would cost about $725,000.

EASC directors Daniel Arbour (Area A), Arzeena Hamir (Area B) and Edwin Grieve (Area C) supported a recommendation for a $142,000 contribution to the SRD and Connected Coast, to be funded by the Denman and Hornby islands community works funds.

Furthermore, the CVRD board is to consider funding beyond a 90 per cent threshold, subject to an assessment of a service delivery model to support broadband connectivity, including public engagement.

Grant funding opportunities exist where an internet service provider may receive up to 90 per cent of the costs to construct a community’s last mile infrastructure. In most cases, the community must provide the remaining 10 per cent.

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