In 2017-2018 KiN built on its past accomplishments and continued to move steadily towards our long-term goal—providing Internet service to the entire north Kootenay Lake region that equals or surpasses that enjoyed by urban dwellers. Having built fibre-to-the-home in upper Kaslo and upgraded our wireless offerings in the previous year, we embarked on installing fibre in communities outside Kaslo.
Constructing underground fibre-optic infrastructure within the Regional District was more complex than our earlier work within the Village of Kaslo. Permits are required from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the rules for fibre burial along and under roads are strict and non-negotiable. However, we established a good working arrangement with the Ministry and proceeded to run fibre to all the homes in Ainsworth, Schroeder Creek, and Lardeau.
The first step was to create high-quality aerial photography of the communities we’re working in; thanks to Vice Chair Tim Ryan, this was accomplished using advanced drones. This photographic mapping was used to plan and document our construction. We hired Andy Scott as our construction foreman and purchased about 100 km of optical fibre cable from India and got to work. Andy did a great job in 2017 and is now working on 2018 construction with Bueno Bauer digging trenches and a crew of four to lay and splice and install fibre.
Ainsworth, with its steep hillsides, narrow roads, and undocumented water lines, was difficult but the work was completed and we are now providing greatly improved Internet service throughout the community. We received valuable cooperation from the Ainsworth Hotsprings Resort, now owned by the Ktunaxa Band, offering a location for our switching equipment and getting our fibre across Highway 31. Coordinating with East Shore Internet Service (ESIS), a nonprofit Internet service provider in Crawford Bay, we constructed a high capacity AirFiber link from Pilot Peninsula to the roof of the Resort, which will provide a bandwidth backup for KiN in the future.
Schroeder Creek and Lardeau became priorities for fibre installation because we were told that roads in both communities would be paved during the year. Ministry of Transportation asked us to have our road crossings complete before the paving crew arrived.
Obtaining sufficient bandwidth to serve all the new subscribers was very much on our minds, as our existing three hop AirFiber link from Crawford Bay to Kaslo was close to saturation. Years ago, we had identified underwater fibre cable in Kootenay Lake as the best way to access nearly unlimited bandwidth from the fibre line that runs between Vancouver and Calgary and passes through Balfour and Crawford Bay. Finally, we were able to persuade Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC) to proceed with this project. KiN participated in the lake fibre planning and built landings for the underwater cable that now runs from Balfour to Kaslo with stops at Ainsworth, Loki Lots and Pineridge. At the beginning of March this year we finally were able to access abundant bandwidth, and we will be able to purchase more in the future as needed. The increased bandwidth we can now access has allowed us to increase our wireless speed and capacity offerings wherever fibre has not yet been installed.
Our funding from the Federal Connecting Canadians 150 grant requires us to provide fibre-to-the-home in Mirror Lake, which was not served by the CBBC project, so we initiated applications of our own for installation of underwater fibre from Pineridge to Mirror Lake and Amundsen Road, with provision for future underwater links to every community around the north arm of Kootenay Lake. This network will be the key to achieving our goal of providing urban-level Internet service to all north Kootenay Lake communities over the next few years. In the process, we have been meeting with ESIS to encourage them to begin installation of fibre-to-the-home in the communities they serve as well.
While all this planning and construction was going on, KiN moved into larger office space and tackled the reorganization of our accounting and project management system. Tim Ryan volunteered a huge amount of time for this effort, while also managing the complex reporting requirements for the Federal grant. We now have Janet Pearson and Jim Holland working in the office and we are using our own voice-over-Internet phone service as a testbed as we prepare to offer that service to our fibre customers. Tyler Hamilton has been doing a tremendous job as our network administrator, planning and problem-solving, and Sam Truchon handles technical support as well as fibre splicing and wireless work.
Overseeing all this progress are Board members Josée Bayeur, Mike Foster, Tim Ryan, Don Scarlett, and Maggie Winters. A couple of months ago Heather Walsof joined the Board to take on the Treasurer position. We look forward to accomplishing even more in the coming year.