Kaslo Infonet says fibre optic connections are coming soon for residential customers in remote areas around the north end of Kootenay Lake.
Executive director Isaac Maxfield says this summer they will be working in Argenta and Johnsons Landing before moving on to Meadow Creek and Cooper Creek next year.
Maxfield notes there is “quite a lot of money” available for rural internet expansion, and the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation has been working to create a fibre backbone for underserved regions like the Slocan Valley and Salmo Valley.
However, the corporation is not providing connections to homes, which is where Kaslo Infonet, a non-profit provider, comes in.
Maxfield says right now the best option for most people in Argenta and Johnsons Landing is wireless service, which is limited to 10 megabit per second downloads and three megabit per seconds upload.
But once the fibre network is complete, they will be able to provide “gigabit-level service. So the jump there is several orders of magnitude from what we’re able to do with the wireless service.”
Underwater cables were laid in 2019-20 when fibre was brought to other communities such as Shutty Bench. Maxfield says they have started building out from “points of presence” established at the Argenta and Johnsons Landing community halls to provide home connections.
“It’s a several stage process where we bring fibre into the community, establish the point of presence, then bring it to the neighbourhood, then to individual streets or alleyways, and eventually to the person’s home.
“There’s quite a few stages to get this infrastructure completed. It’s not as simple as using existing telephone lines. We have to bring this infrastructure there through the ground. It’s quite a lot of work in the rocky terrain we’re used to here.”
He expects the primary work in Argenta to be completed by the middle or end of summer, with Johnson Landing to follow before winter, although they may have to return next year to complete some residential connections.
“We are pushing to get as much of that done this year just due to the distances involved as much as possible,” he says.
He adds they are asking residents to get in touch with them and arrange to have fibre brought to their home, even if they are not currently interested in activating the service.
Maxfield says as a non-profit, they are able to work in areas where other telecoms would not be interested as the return on investment would be too minimal or distant.
“Whereas for us, if we can get somebody good internet now and it will pay off in 10 years, well they’ve had good internet for 10 years.”