Times Colonist E-edition

Damage to cable takes down phone and internet in north

KAITLYN BAILEY — With files from Jane Shrypnek

A fallen tree damaged Telus telephone lines and a fibre-optic cable, leaving northern B.C. communities west of Prince George with intermittent internet, TV, land line and cellular phone service for more than eight hours.

The outage started around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday and affected people in Burns Lake, Granisle, Haida Gwaii, the Hazeltons, Kitimat, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Smithers, Terrace, Thornhill, Houston, Topley, Telkwa, Fraser Lake and Vanderhoof.

Lack of service meant many businesses could only accept cash.

“It was a real nuisance. Nobody usually carries cash anymore,” said Brett Johnson, auto technician at the PetroCanada gas station next to the intersection of Highways 16 and 37 (Kitwanga).

“People turning north onto Highway 37 typically fill up at this gas station because the next one is two hours away,” he said. During the outage there were some who didn’t have cash and had to just “take a chance.”

“Some of the cell towers and land lines in our region use fibre connections to allow for high bandwidth to our phones,” Lee Brain, mayor of Prince Rupert, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. “There are other cell towers that use older technology, which is why some people were still able to connect albeit with slow service.”

He said northern communities are vulnerable to an outages because there is only one cable between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

If the cable is damaged, several communities can lose all their connections.

Brain does see an end in sight to the vulnerability, however.

“Soon, this won’t be an issue because the Connected Coast project is building a new fibre line from Prince Rupert to Vancouver which will act as a back up line to create redundancy for our region,” he said. “So if a tree goes down again, we will all still have internet through the line coming in from the ocean.”

Telecommunications company CityWest said it is committed to “laying fibre cables under the surfaces of land and water” instead of sharing above ground poles to connect wires, which, it said, is what most internet service providers have historically done.

The Connected Coast is expected to be completed in 2023, Brain said.






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