2015 – 2016 has been a watershed year for Kaslo infoNet Society, both for the wireless system and for the new fibre-optic system.
Following months of correspondence with Telus, the company finally provided the contract terms for upgrading our purchase of bandwidth at the Lardeau Valley Community Centre. We are now purchasing 100 Mbps instead of the 30 Mbps we’ve limited by over the past few years. The additional bandwidth enables us to double the download speed to wireless subscribers who have upgraded their radios. Those upgrades are taking place continuously now; when completed they will allow KiN to provide better and faster access to the Internet and make our distribution system more efficient.
We installed remote-controlled generators at four of our most-used wireless relay tower sites, to make them more reliable and to eliminate expensive snowmobile trips to recharge batteries when winter gloom prevents the solar panels from supplying enough power. Some of the funding for this improvement came from the Affected Areas and Community Initiative Funds. We now have two micro-hydro power plants to serving the same purpose at other remote towers. Thanks to this improvement, we made it through last winter with no emergency trips to towers—a significant cost saving that allows us to direct our resources into improving our service.
Following up on our earlier success installing fibre-optic cable in Kaslo’s downtown core and the Arena district, we expanded eastwards to Abbey Manor, served Balfour Crescent, and jumped across KasloBay to the Larch Drive subdivision using an underwater fibre-optic cable. More recently we have expanded service to Kaslo West Road and the beginning of the Back Road.
Because buried fibre-optic cable has nearly unlimited bandwidth capacity and is not limited by line of sight the way wireless is, we decided that it was the best way to provide true urban-quality Internet service to communities throughout the north arm of Kootenay Lake. With help from Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation (CBBC), a subsidiary of Columbia Basin Trust, we applied for Federal funding through the Connecting Communities Program and Provincial funding through Northern Development Initiatives Trust. The RDCK has also contributed to our project to serve north KootenayLake communities with fibre.
Although our work in 2015 was delayed by slow delivery of the Federal grant, we are now proceeding with plans to serve upper Kaslo, Pineridge, MirrorLake, Fletcher Creek, Woodbury, Ainsworth, Shutty Bench, Schroeder Creek, Lardeau, Argenta and Johnson’s Landing with fibre-optic cable. This is a massive undertaking which will require years to complete; upper Kaslo will be our first major fibre-optic service installation. As more subscribers come on line, they will generate additional cash flow which will help us continue our expansion.
As we take on more subscribers and offer them urban-quality Internet service, we have been taking steps to get access to sufficient bandwidth to prevent our system from getting overloaded. We set up a high-capacity wireless bridge that brings 225 Mbps 35 km from Crawford Bay to Kaslo and another 35 km to the Claypit tower in Meadow Creek.
In order to manage this ambitious project, KiN has hired several new workers and is now able to proceed with construction with less dependence on volunteer labour from Board members. To handle the responsibility of managing increasing amounts of funds and inventory, we have set up a new accounting system and are developing a versatile subscription management system to more efficiently handle the increased workload.
During the past year, two members have left the Board—Cathy Madden and Rhonda Ruston. Rhonda was recruited to be a Board member of the Columbia Basin Trust. Maggie Winters joined the KiN Board recently; the other Board members are Josée Bayeur, Charles Cuell, Mike Foster, Randy Morse, Tim Ryan and Don Scarlett. KiN has been blessed with an excellent Board—volunteers who have given their time and talent to transform KiN into much more than the basic wireless Internet service provider for people outside the Kaslo ADSL area that it was just a few years ago.