A recent study by the Mount Waddington Regional District found that the lack – and high cost – of internet bandwidth is a significant issue for economic development initiatives on the North Island. Many businesses are run from rural areas in the region and customers expect them to operate at the same level of efficiency as urban services.
The Ragged Edge Community Network Society was formed in 2006 to bring modern Internet service to North Island communities previously served only by dial-up. The Society has brought high-speed internet service to 12 communities, 375 households, three First Nations and more than 50 businesses that previously only had dial-up access. When Ragged Edge Community Network Society began offering service in 2006, high usage of broadband per customers was 9 gigabytes per month. In 2015 the average usage is 15 gigs per month, with household users’ peak usage reaching 250-300 gigabytes of data per month.
The network needed updating to meet current Industry Canada standards of 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up and provide efficient comprehensive service to more communities. To stabilize the network, back-up power stations were installed to increase reliability and service during hydro outages. The Quatsino community was integrated into the terrestrial network and interconnection upgrades were made in Sointula, Coal Harbour, Quatsino First Nation, Zeballos and Telegraph Cove. Routers and Wi-Fi service to Gilford Island and Kwicksutaineuk First Nation will be upgraded. A customer relations management program will be implemented along with plans for further network expansions.
Upgrading the high-speed internet service improves quality of life for residents, the success of businesses, and meets expectations of visitors traveling to the region. Residents are able to access education, online shopping, telehealth and telemedicine as well as culture and connection to the world. Entrepreneurs will have improved capacity to engage in emerging sectors of the North Island economy that include tourism, aquaculture, arts, crafts and cultural activities. The project was completed in May 2019.