GwaiiTel building its own tower on Mt. Hays to improve Haida Gwaii Internet

Haida Gwaii telecom company GwaiiTel is building a broadcast tower on Mount Hays to deliver better Internet connections to its customers.

The Haida Gwaii-based telecommunications company, GwaiiTel, is planning to build a new broadcasting tower on Mount Hays with assistance from CityWest. The new 30-metre tower will be replacing the existing towers already on Mount Hays, with the broadcasting equipment being moved over to the newer and taller tower. Once that is done the existing towers will be torn down.

The main point of building the new broadcasting tower is to increase Internet capacity over the radio link to Masset on Haida Gwaii, thereby improving the often dismal connection speeds that plague Internet users on the islands.

“These days Internet means any number of applications like Internet phone or television that are only really available to people with enough bandwidth.,” says GwaiiTel’s administrator, Paul Daniel.

“The main problem with Internet on Haida Gwaii is capacity. Telus isn’t able to provide it and they’re the only people with that capacity. So consequently we are going to build this radio link.”

The small local Internet provider has accused the telecom giant, Telus, of unfair competition in the past. A long-standing complaint against Telus is that it didn’t follow through with a promise to carry GwaiiTel service on their network with a capacity of 100 megabits a second, when the telecom giant built its own radio link to Haida Gwaii in 2006.

After they were locked into a 5-year contract with Telus, Gwaii Tel says that the most capacity they were given was 30 megabits a second until 2009 when the capacity was bumped up to 40 megabits.

On top of that, last year the Provincial Government and Telus finalized a 10-year deal and the telecom giant turned back to GwaiiTel’s grievances. The small company pushed for a radio link upgrade but Telus insisted on finding a more cost effective option. After months of saying they were studying their options it was announced that Telus had built the upgrade at their own expense and kept all the additional bandwidth for their own needs.

Now free of their 5-year contract with Telus, GwaiiTel appears to be building their own new radio link to get the capacity they’ve wanted all along with help from CityWest.

“Right now a lot of people are experiencing connections that are chocking due to lack of capacity. So we’re hoping to provide that capacity so they can do what they like without all the slowdown,” says Daniel.

On top of providing improving Haida Gwaii’s Internet service, the new tower will also be providing radio support for the Ministry of Forrest’s forest fire response team.