What is the Connected Coast project?
The Connected Coast project will see the placement of sub-sea fibre-optic cable from north of Prince Rupert, to Haida Gwaii and south along the BC coast to Vancouver and around Vancouver Island.
Currently, many residents living along the West Coast of BC and around Vancouver Island, do not have access to reliable and affordable internet. The Connected Coast project will bring new or improved high-speed internet accessibility to 139 rural, remote and First Nation coastal communities.
Who is paying for the project?
Overall, the project will cost an estimated $45.4 million. Funding for the project is being provided 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.
Why are both CityWest and the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) being funded for the project? What is the relationship between the two organizations?
The joint $45.4 million investment provides funding to two recipients – CityWest and the SRD to install a new sub-sea fibre-optic cable to 159 landings along the BC coast from north of Prince Rupert, to Haida Gwaii, south to Vancouver, and around Vancouver Island. The two organizations initially submitted individual projects but realized improved services for both areas could be attained by connecting the two networks. The two submissions were amalgamated into one – the Connected Coast project.
The SRD will receive $32.5 million and CityWest will receive $12.9 million to construct the required high-speed infrastructure.
When is the project going to begin?
The project has started. The project’s purpose to bring new or improved high-speed Internet accessibility to rural and remote communities along coastal B.C., Haida Gwaii, and Vancouver Island was announced in January 2018. CityWest and SRD worked closely with the federal and provincial governments to determine the details and funding of the project.
In early 2020, the project slowed down due to COVID-19, and as CityWest transitioned to a new CEO. Over the past few months, the project has been refreshed, which has led to the joint venture agreement in Sept 2020.
City West and SRD procured the Connected Coast project and awarded the design and construct contract to Baylink Networks. The design of the network, permitting and consultation process is currently taking place and the deployment of equipment for the first phase is anticipated to start Summer 2021.
I live along the BC coast. Will I benefit from this project?
A complete list of communities expected to benefit from the project can be found on the Connected Coast Communities Map.
What is last-mile connectivity? Why isn’t it being completed as part of this project?
The Connected Coast project provides ‘backbone’ infrastructure only. It does not include last-mile connectivity for communities to connect to the high-speed infrastructure. Last-mile generally refers to running the cable from a landing site directly to homes and businesses, and providing internet service packages to the customer. The last-mile solution may be different in each community depending on their aspirations, resources and existing services. Internet Service Providers (ISP) that offer last-mile services will be able to connect directly to Connected Coast backbone infrastructure.
Network BC is the provincial agency tasked with improving connectivity across the province and are a helpful resource for communities and ISP’s seeking to connect to the Connected Coast backbone infrastructure. The Connected Coast project team will work with ISP’s, regional districts, and communities to keep them informed of important developments and initiatives to assist them in developing last-mile solutions.
I am a supplier/vendor or an Internet Services Provider (ISP), and I would like to be involved in this project. Who do I contact?
The Connected Coast team is collecting the names of local suppliers, vendors and ISPs. Please send the name of your organization, services provided and contact information to email@example.com as all information will be collected and kept for use as the project moves closer to construction.
Why are you using a sub-sea cable?
For the Connected Coast project, we have chosen subsea high-speed fibre-optic cable as the preferred technology for several reasons. Fibre-optic technology is currently the favoured method for delivering data as it provides the greatest capacity for transferring data and is becoming increasingly economic. It can carry high bandwidth for greater distances and is much less susceptible to interference.
Wireless broadband relies on satellites or radio signals from fixed towers. Satellites are costly and rely on a clear line to be able to reliably deliver service. Weather and movement of the safelight can delay or interrupt service. Fixed towers are also costly and require construction in areas that provide a clear distribution such as open spaces. Our coastal terrain makes the construction of these towers cost prohibitive and, in many cases, unfeasible.
Will the network be open?
The Connected Coast network will be open to third parties for dedicated capacity purchases on a wholesale or retail basis.
How many people will benefit from the project?
The proposed sub-sea fibre optic transport line will benefit approximately 175,000 people and 90,000 households in 139 rural, remote and First Nation coastal communities.
Internet access is important but so is cellular coverage. Why are we prioritizing getting these communities internet access before they can use a cellphone?
Cellular service is one way to connect communities and we will continue to find ways to improve cell service in the region. By investing in a fibre-optic line we are creating the opportunity for service providers to connect BC’s coastal regions with modern internet access and cellular coverage. The network’s existence is also expected to make it easier for local internet service providers to obtain grant funding to connect homes and achieve internet speeds available today in large cities.
Are there any other secondary benefits from this project?
Yes. This investment is expected to give northern communities west of Prince George increased reliability. Communities like Terrace and Smithers are currently serviced by a single land-based transport line that is not supported by an alternate fibre transport line in case of damage. A coastal connection will provide redundancy that could maintain service if outages affect the current network connection.
My community is not included on the map. Why Not?
The majority of communities proposed to be included as landing points for this Connected Coast project were identified as eligible communities under the Federal Connect to Innovate program.
For the purposes of the program, eligible communities are eligible rural communities and eligible remote communities. An eligible rural community is defined as a named place with a population of less than 30,000 residents and that is 2 km or more from the nearest 1 Gbps PoP. An eligible remote community is a community that meets the definition of a rural community and does not have year-round road access and/or is included on the Canadian Radio- television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) list of communities dependent on satellite for telecommunications services. Refer to the CRTC website for the most recent annual Communications Monitoring Report which identifies these communities. Eligibility was assessed by the federal government based on data from a number of sources, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs), provinces, territories and others to identify where PoPs delivering service of at least 1 Gbps are located. This data was then used to build a comprehensive map identifying underserved communities. For more information, please see the eligibility map here.
My community is not listed as an eligible community or landing site. Is it still possible to get a cable landing site located here?
Proposals (or requests) for additional community landing sites will be considered on a case-by-case basis, subject to technical suitability, required approvals, project timelines, and funding availability.
Will there be any environmental implications from the project?
Environmental impact from the project will be limited in scope, nature and duration. Temporary impacts will occur during installation of the marine cable across the intertidal zone as well as excavation for the below ground manhole that the cable will connect to.
There will be no long term affects from the cable being in place or from operations.
The construction contractor will develop and adhere to a Construction Environmental Management Plan that will provide mitigation measures for the contractor to follow during installation of the system.
Will there be any impact to salmon during installation or operation of the cable?
The network is a passive system (no power, electromagnetics), therefore there will be no disruption to salmon or other marine life.
What is the cable made of? Can it degrade or leak into the ocean?
The cable is 13.5 mm x 6.3 mm, surrounded by an outer jacket of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). There is no power required to transmit data for this system. The cable requires steel strength members (20kN cable rating) and will not have any armoring in the outer jacket.
There will be no interaction between the cable and seawater and there are no products within the cable that could leak into the ocean.
Will the cable be buried?
The cable will not be buried except within the inter-tidal zone at each landing site.
What will happen to the cable if it needs to be repaired?
Standard marine repair practices will be used. The cable will be recovered to the repair vessel, a new piece of cable will be spliced in and the cable will be lowered back to the seabed.
What will happen to the cable when it is no longer in service?
The cable will be abandoned in place as removal would likely result in greater disturbance.
What studies are being completed for the project?
Nearshore habitat surveys have been and will be conducted at each landing site.
Will the public use of the landing sites be limited due to the cable being in place
Access will not change to any landing locations following installation of the cable.
Is there any risk of the cable floating after installation?
No, the cable is denser than seawater therefore it cannot float. Installation will be managed in such a way to ensure the cable is placed on the seabed with no suspensions.