Connected Coast should include Galiano and Mayne

Oct 3, 2018 | Blog, Governance, Technology | 8 comments

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…

  1. Follow up with Ministry staff on progress to include Galiano and Mayne to the project program.
  2. Meet with the Islands Trust to discuss accessing provincial funding to develop a plan to increase connectivity, and
  3. Meet with newly elected or re-elected Directors and Trustees to discuss connectivity following the local government elections.


  1. April Tomiye

    I appreciate all you do including these islands being connected. However, I question going to the government for funding from the taxpayers purse when the companies supplying the internet service charge users more than enough to cover their own costs. “The last miles” should be their expense.

    • Adam Olsen

      Thank you for your comment April. The government is funding the fibre optic connectivity. Landing the line in the communities. The service providers (or perhaps a local utility) are generally responsible for the “last mile” connected to the customer. In general, the cost to connect properties in rural and remote communities is very high and the customer base is limited so the cost per customer is prohibitive when it comes to running line. There are other technologies like wireless and 5G but they have been controversial. This is the discussion that needs to be had at all levels.

  2. Todd Noyes

    There has been for many years, although it may now be abandoned, a BC Tel (Telus) submarine cable across Active Pass from Mayne to Galiano. There is a recently installed Shaw Fibre Optic cable from the foot of Bayview on Mayne to Galiano. As a retired BC Tel (Telus) Outside Plant Engineering Technician, I see no reason why placing a submarine Fibre Optic Cable across Active Pass would be a problem.

    • Adam Olsen

      I think you are probably correct from a technical only perspective it is possible. Factor in the timeframe that they were working in to get a project planned and funding application submitted I think they decided to leave the two islands out. I am reasonably convinced, and encouraged, that spur lines could be added to the project and the provincial officials we spoke with have committed to looking into that for us.

  3. Dave E

    On Galiano, Telus has a fibre-optic cable ingressing at Retreat Cove, hence direct to their ‘office’, across the street from the local hardware store. Thereon, the signals are converted for use on their copper wire network, known as ‘DSL’. The policy of Telus is to limit DSL subscription to a distance not exceeding 3km from this ‘office’, where it considered to have signal degradation, although this is not so, as they have certain subscribers at a distance beyond 5km.
    DSL cannot be routed thru the regular phone network signal boosters that Telus employs. The DSL signal can be boosted, which requires equipment specific to DSL. Shaw cable utilizes their ‘cable’ technology, however, it is not available past Page Drive seniors residence. While all others seeking a usable internet signal, are still utilizing Dial-Up, Wireless or Satellite based service, which, on dial-up, would almost require having the browser create “text’ only webpages.
    Telus, in previous occasions, has almost upgraded the DSL system on Galiano, but choose instead to allot their resources to the Sea To Sky corridor, as well as other areas. Telus can utilize their existing fiber-optic network on Galiano, and expand the same. This is where government funding would overcome the profit driven Telco’s, curious how much Telus has received already from public funding in the past.
    Shaw Cable’s ‘cable’ technology can extend the whole length of Galiano, but again the word is, ‘that the investment could not be recouped with the needed time-frame’. Both Telus and Shaw have bottled up other companies from providing internet service.
    The DSL network on Galiano is currently oversubscribed approximately 3X, and the repair response time-frame is a minimum of 10 days, and sending feedback or a direct contact seems to have no response, outside of their call-center.
    I would be interested in finding out about public-purse funding that Telus has received, and if they are using such in the programs the funds were allotted for.

    • Adam Olsen

      Thank you for this information Dave. I do not have a direct answer to your question about Telus but I can tell from my time on the Public Accounts Committee and seeing a couple of audits from the Provincial Auditor they have some very large contracts to provide telecommunications services to the province.

  4. Andrea

    Why is the Provinve subsidizing fibre optics for rural areas? And considering subsidizing the last mile? Connecting predominately indigenous communities could be part of reconciliation, but subsidizing rural communities in general doesn’t make sense. The fixed costs for many goods and services are too high for the population density to support, but this doesn’t mean the government should be subsidizing them.

    • Adam Olsen

      Hi Andrea,
      Thank you for your comment. The multi-jurisdictional program to connect rural-remote communities is an essential component of the economy, both today and in the future. This program is simply about providing the fibre optic cables between communities. It is up to private companies or local utilities to find a way to service customers. Similar to the provincial/federal highway network connects cities and towns but those cities and towns build and maintain the local roads.
      All the best,


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