On September 20, 2018 I began getting tagged in social media posts from residents of Galiano and Mayne Island regarding the Connected Coast program. The project goal is to “bring high-speed internet accessibility to rural and remote communities along coastal BC, Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island.”
This project is led by CityWest and the Strathcona Regional District and is funded “by the Government of Canada’s Connect to Innovate (CTI) program, Indigenous Services Canada, and the Province of BC through the Connecting British Columbia program administered by Northern Development Initiative Trust.” You can find further details about the plan here.
Galiano and Mayne left out
My constituents on Galiano and Mayne Islands were very concerned. Of the 154 rural and coastal communities being connected by fibre optic services, their communities were left out.
Along with CRD Director Dave Howe, I committed to look into the issue. My team arranged a briefing for us from the Ministry of Citizens’ Services.
Ministry officials explained that the decision by the project proponents to exclude the two Islands lay primarily on the difficulty to access them through Active Pass.
Overcoming Active Pass
Although it is difficult to see from the map online, it was clearly visible on a map that we were given at the meeting that Salt Spring Island is proposed to be connected near Walkers Hook and Fernwood Road and North Pender Island is proposed to be connected near Walden Road, with a fibre optic line that directly passes Mayne and Galiano, servicing Saturna Island.
There was no rationalization why Mayne and Galiano needed to be connected through Active Pass. Further, there was no rationalization why these two communities could not have been connected at Village Bay and Montague Harbour. The only explanation we received was that the project plan was developed quickly. We were assured they did their best to connect as many communities as efficiently as possible. We asked the Ministry if they could be connected at those points. They committed to look into these options with the project proponent to expand the program.
The “Last Mile”
However, there are a few key factors to highlight. First, we have some time as this is a three-year build out. That said, we are not going to delay our advocacy. It is important that Galiano and Mayne Islands are added to the core of this program at the earliest stage.
Second, it is important to note that this project is only landing fibre optic cables in the community. Currently, there is no provision for “the last mile” projects to connect individual customers or even a determination, plan, strategy, or projects to service those customers.
Connecting with the Islands Trust
As a result, it is important to note that while Director Howe and I are strongly advocating to ensure that Galiano and Mayne are added to the core project but there is still a lot of work to do. It is important that the province and regional district representatives are active on this issue. But, the Islands Trust representatives are the critical stakeholders to engage because they have been, and will be, involved in decisions that affect the “last mile” projects that connect Islanders, as well as the connection points themselves.
In terms of next steps, I will…
- Follow up with Ministry staff on progress to include Galiano and Mayne to the project program.
- Meet with the Islands Trust to discuss accessing provincial funding to develop a plan to increase connectivity, and
- Meet with newly elected or re-elected Directors and Trustees to discuss connectivity following the local government elections.