Completion of the Federal Connecting Canadians 150 Program late in 2018 was a major accomplishment. Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation’s Kootenay Lake fibre from Balfour to Kaslo delivered the bandwidth we needed, so we used the CC150 funding in 2018 to serve Ainsworth, Ainslo Road, Fletcher Frontage, Amundsen Road, Mirror Lake, and Pineridge Subdivision. All this was accomplished with our five permanent staff and four seasonal workers, plus a great deal of volunteer time from Board members. We now have more than 675 subscribers and the numbers are increasing steadily.
Burying fibre-optic cable in Ainsworth was challenging, with its narrow and steep roadways containing undocumented waterlines. Early in our Ainsworth work, we received friendly cooperation from the Ainsworth Hotsprings Resort, which led us to site our fibre switchgear on Resort property. Later in the year, the Resort surprised us with a sudden demand for unaffordable rent, so we moved our equipment to the basement of the JB Fletcher Store, thanks to the community spirit of the JB Fletcher Restoration Society. This complex move was accomplished in less than two days with a minimum of service interruption. The Resort also required us to construct a new Ainsworth lake landing later this year.
CBBC’s lake fibre bypassed Woodbury Resort, Woodbury Village, Amundsen Road, and Mirror Lake, so we applied for permits for landings at each of these sites and proceeded to construct them during the summer. We installed underwater fibre from CBBC’s Pineridge landing to Mirror Lake and to Amundsen Road using a barge lent to us by Derek Baker and captained by Jason Caple. Mike Steinmann performed diving service and operated his workboat to assist with the landing construction as well as the fibre laying. We constructed the Woodbury landings but delayed the fibre installation because the fibre to those sites has to originate from our new Ainsworth landing.
At Loki Lots, we constructed our switchgear enclosure at the pumphouse and after several attempts, we found the end of an undocumented and deeply buried conduit about 650 metres long and used it to fish our fibre cable up to the highway to serve Fletcher Frontage. We bored under the highway to install a conduit so we could reach subscribers on both sides of the road. Fletcher Frontage required fibre runs up to 3.5 kilometers, which took until the end of the season to complete. Where we had to run fibre up a cliff and through woods where trenching was impossible, we used flexible aluminum conduit, which saved a great deal of time and expense.
Mirror Lake required another bored conduit run under the highway to get from the lake landing into the community. We installed fibre along Arcola Road until we reached Bjerkness Creek, then ran the fibres to feed Birch Hill Lane and south Mirror Lake in conduit running across a community foot bridge. This bypassed a curvy section of highway that would have been a flagger’s nightmare if we’d buried the fibre there. We located the Mirror Lake switchgear enclosure at the campground, and before the busy season starts this year we’ll provide wireless Internet service for the campers.
From CBBC’s Pineridge landing we ran fibre underwater to serve Mirror Lake and Amundsen Road, and also brought fibres up the cliff to serve the subdivision. Bedrock was a challenge, but we completed that project with one more bored conduit under the road. Pineridge and Mirror Lake had been difficult to serve from our wireless towers on the east side of the lake and since Telus ADSL was practically unusable that far from Kaslo, installing fibre made a huge difference to the residents of those communities.
Andy Scott started the year as our construction foreman, but early in the season he took another job. Stewart Coonce took over as foreman and under his supervision, the construction crew completed all the work required by the Federal CC150 grant. Bueno Bauer used his mini-hoe to efficiently perform all the excavation for fibre along roadways, which was essential to our project.
While all this construction was going on, we began to offer telephone service to our fibre subscribers. Voice-Over-Internet on fibre offers the same quality as a conventional landline, and we already have 28 users. Board member Tim Ryan managed the complex accounting required by the CC150 program with assistance from Janet Pearson, our office manager. Tyler Hamilton managed the complexities of fibre design and documentation, while Sam Truchon and Bob McGregor handled installations and customer service.
The other Board members at present are Josée Bayeur, Mike Foster, Graham Gilbert, Tim Ryan, Don Scarlett, Heather Walsof and Maggie Winters. All are volunteers, committed to bringing fast, reliable and affordable Internet—nowadays an essential service—to all the communities of north Kootenay Lake.
Don Scarlett, Board Chair