Intervention: Powell River Regional District (Intervenor 183)

Document Name: 2015-134.223678.2385250.Intervention(1f4gy01!).html

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Intervention: Powell River Regional District (Intervenor 183)

Document Name: 2015-134.223678.2385248.Intervention(1f4gw01!).pdf

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional DistrictReport prepared by **** McLean, Second Flux Information ServicesCommissioned by the Powell River Regional District

November 2009

Second Flux Information Services • *-***-***-**** • ******@***.comPowell River Regional District • *-***-***-**** • ******@***.comInternet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1Introduction & Scope

Internet Service Providers Today
Recent Developments
Identifying Coverage in the Regional District
City of Powell River
Area A
Area B
Area C
Area D
Area E
Finding the Gaps
**** Road Neighbourhood (Area A)
Stillwater & Saltery Bay Neighbourhoods (Area C)
Other Important Mentions (Area A)
Findings & Insight
Executive Insight
Novel Technologies
Key Recommendations
Appendix A: Internet Service Providers
Appendix B: Testing methodology
Appendix C: Maps

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2Introduction & Scope

Like many rural districts in British Columbia, the Powell River Regional District encompasses a variety of communities and service levels. Within the city of Powell River, residents can choose a lifestyle that is substantially urban. Farther afield, homes exist completely off the grid, beyond reach of conventional power, telephone or even road access. Other residents find a rural/urban balance in communities and neighbourhoods throughout the district. This ability to find one’s own balance is cited as a leading attraction of the area1, and is attributable in part to the variety of the region.

No matter where residents chose to live, all share an increasing interest in broadband (high-speed) Internet access. Broadband first arrived in the region about 10 years ago2, but service gaps remain. The Powell River Regional District (PRRD) has commissioned this report to examine the state of broadband connectivity in the region, identify gaps and suggest solutions for extending service. Gaps may be a simple lack of coverage, or a prohibitive subscription cost. The report was researched and completed during November 2009.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 31 Big Pacific, “The Powell River Lifestyle” • When Shaw Cablesystems first offered “Shaw@Home” high speed service

When preparing a report on technology, it is perhaps inevitable that we encounter acronyms and other technical jargon. In the interests of accessibility, this report has been written in a way that de-emphasizes such terms, making them optional.

Terminology is still included for technical accuracy, but there is no requirement to understand it in order to understand what follows.

One term is important to define: For the purposes of this report, “broadband” refers to any type of Internet access that operates at 1.5 Mbps (Megabits per second) or faster3.

This measure of speed is becoming the accepted definition of broadband in Canada, as expressed by the Federal Government4. In contrast, dial-up phone modems are usually rated at 56 Kbps (Kilobits per second). Since 1 Megabit = 1000 Kilobits5, a dial-up modem is at least 27 times slower than broadband. Broadband does not refer to any one technology, but merely to a minimum speed limit, which we are fixing at 1.5 Mbps.

It is worth noting that most broadband providers sell light or basic packages that fall below this speed. These packages are still significantly faster than dial-up, but slower than broadband as defined above. In the interest of clarity, these packages will be referred to as medium speed.


To better understand the expectations of residents who lack affordable broadband access, it is important to illustrate how Internet use has changed over the years.

Innovation in dial-up modems ended in 1999, and the intervening decade has obsolesced this technology. Since then, personal computers have increased in speed by more than 1500%6. Broadband access has become almost universal, so that today 94% of Canadian households are within reach of high-speed Internet. And uptake has been very good — approximately 69% of Canadian homes currently subscribe to Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 43 Minimum 1.5 Mbps download, 384 Kbps upload. Almost all Internet access is balanced in favour of download speed.

4 Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians • Prefixes for binary multiples • Based on benchmarks a common mid-to-high end personal computer in 1999, vs. benchmarks for equivalent computers in 2009. An Intel Pentium III scored 247, vs. 4175 for the Intel Core i5. PassMark Software • .

broadband7. The fastest consumer broadband available in Powell River today is 25 Mbps8 , about 446 times faster than dial-up9 .

As these trends continue around the world, Internet content has largely become broadband-enhanced. Modern websites do not download quickly over dial-up modems, and even email has become slow. Many popular Internet services (such as YouTube, Google Earth and Skype10) are designed specifically for broadband, and fail to operate properly on a dial-up connection. Important operating system updates are too large to download at all. Interesting multimedia features of the Internet, such as streaming video and virtual tours, are not available to the dial-up user, and services that rely on a constant Internet connection also suffer or fail. In a very real sense, the dial-up user has become a second-class citizen of the Internet, unable to participate in services which are increasingly popular and important in our lives.

With the majority of Canadians using broadband both at home and in the office, there is an increasing perception that high-speed access is available to everyone. This creates a further barrier for non-broadband users, as they are expected to participate online in a way that for them is not possible. Examples of this include friends sending large email attachments (overwhelming dial-up email), companies expecting employees to tele-commute or otherwise collaborate from home, and organizations publishing information in an exclusively broadband context, so that dial-up users are effectively cut out. In today’s world, dial-up service is still better than no service at all, but only barely. As a connectivity option it is just too slow, and will be treated as such in this report.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 57 CRTC Communications Monitoring Report, 2009.

8 Shaw offers wired high speed access up to 25 Mbps, 446.4 times faster than dial-up. Bell & Telus offer wireless coverage near to this speed, at 21.1 Mbps. All three options debuted in the area this year.

9 The speed of all types of Internet access can be affected by conditions, so accounts tend to be marketed using optimal or best possible figures. As this practice is widespread, speeds are still very useful for comparison.

10 All trademarks are the property of their respective holders, and are used for illustrative purposes only.

Internet Service Providers Today

The PRRD is served by nine Internet service providers11, through a variety of wired and wireless technologies. A summary of these providers is included here, along with some basic12 comparisons in speed (more dots is faster), distribution, and cost. Some providers offer a variety of account speeds, which are listed here as a range.

Provider Name Technology Relative **** Distribution Relative CostBell Wireless Cellular ••••• **** Medium

GBIS/LIAS Wireless Radio ••• Limited Low
MasterOne Wireless Radio ••• Very Limited Low
Rogers Wireless Cellular •••• **** Medium
Shaw Wired Cable •• to ••••• **** Low to Medium
Telus Wired ADSL •• to •••• **** Low
Telus Wired Dial-Up • Excellent Low
Telus (Mobility) Wireless Cellular ••••• **** Medium
Twincomm Wireless Radio ••• Limited Low
Uniserve Wired ADSL ••• to •••• **** Low

Xplornet Wireless Radio •• to •••• Excellent Medium to HighFigure 1: Summary of Powell River Internet Service Providers (more dots is faster)Recent Developments

The market for local Internet service is far from stagnant. Recent changes that affected the Powell River region are listed below.

2008: **** Bay Internet Society (GBIS) brings affordable broadband Internet to the **** Bay region, through an innovative partnership with the Lasqueti Internet Access Society (LIAS).

2009: Shaw introduces High-Speed Warp, extending its lead as the fastest Internet service provider in the PRRD. At 25 Mbps, speed is incredible; coverage favours the city of Powell River and a few kilometres beyond.

2009, October: A local committee is formed to facilitate improved Internet access in Electoral Areas A & C, the two areas most underserved at the Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 611 A full listing of Internet Service Providers (with typical subscription costs) appears in Appendix A12 This report is not intended a a comprehensive review of regional Internet service providers.

Comparison data is based on publicly available information and marketing, checked against real-world network testing, local end-user reports, and our own experiences in the field.

moment13. Close to 40 people attended the inaugural meeting at the Lund Community Centre, including key representatives of the regional district14. This committee is in the formative stages of growth, and hopes to add Area C residents to its board of directors. Committee members are keenly aware of local issues, and the creation of this group is expected to streamline resident efforts and improve communication. An Internet discussion group is open15 and drawing interest from the public.

2009, October: Xplornet buys capacity in the next-generation Jupiter Satellite System, set to launch in 2012. The new satellites will provide home connectivity speeds 8 times faster than current offerings16.

2009, November: Bell & Telus launch a next-generation cellular Internet service, tripling cellular data speed to 21.1 Mbps in the area. The new HSPA+17 network spans over a million square kilometres, reaching 93% of Canadians18. Local testing for this report confirmed excellent speed and reasonable coverage. This marks a potential tipping point, where wireless access is almost faster than the fastest wired service in the area19; coverage is already superior. Network competitor Rogers has HSPA+ service in major Canadian cities, and plans on expanding that service in the future.

2009, ongoing: Work is proceeding on a new GBIS transmission tower on Mt.

Pocahontas, its third on Texada Island. The tower will increase coverage and reliability for island residents. Funding was secured through provincial grants.

In addition, most services have increased in speed during the past 2 years, while prices have remained the same or declined. This “always faster, often cheaper” mantra follows similar trends in the PC industry, and is expected to continue as technologies evolve.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 713 Based on reports and testing detailed later in this document14 Powell River Peak article, October 28 2009 • “PRRD wants High **** Internet” • **** claim based on 1.2 Mbps home service available today, vs. 10 Mbps service forecast. **** Xplore **** Release • A type of advanced cellular technology known as “Evolved High-Speed Packet Access”18 Claims from Bell Canada, - not all coverage is created equal, however!

19 Bell/Telus cellular is 84% as fast as Shaw High-Speed Warp, and much faster than any other service.
Identifying Coverage in the Regional District

Now we must examine the story of Internet connectivity across the region. It’s a complicated tale, as varied as the district itself. Who has access and who does not?

Have new technologies changed the balance? What challenges and opportunities exist in 2009, and what does the picture really look like out there? To answer these questions in the limited time available, we gathered data in a number of ways:

1. Resident feedback was invited through various media (Newspaper20, Internet mailing lists, PRRD website posting),

2. Internet service providers and area stakeholders were interviewed directly, 3. Service provider websites were examined in detail21,and,

4. Cellular Internet was live-tested through much of the regional district, by Second Flux technicians22.

All information was acquired in November 2009, for a uniquely contemporary view of the area. Colour maps of the findings can be found in Appendix C.

City of Powell River

Mentioned here only briefly, Powell River can be regarded as the gold standard for access in the regional district. Shaw, Telus and Uniserve offer multiple connectivity packages. Shaw and Telus sell medium-speed packages for less than the cost of dial-up, an irony that is not lost on envious rural residents. Still, the average Powell River Resident spends more than this, so that the average yearly cost of Internet is quite similar23. Even in the city, coverage is not 100%; Telus does not reach some areas in Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 820 The author wishes to thank editor **** Walz and the Powell River Peak for publishing an article on very short notice, without which community outreach would have been reduced.

21 A full listing of Internet Service Providers (with typical subscription costs) appears in Appendix A.

22 Testing methodology is described in Appendix B.

23 Based on noted subscription choices and resident reports. It is important to note that while on average Powell River residents do not pay less for access, their access is generally faster and/or more reliable.

Cranberry, although Shaw does24. The reliability of these wired networks25 are very good, although not perfect. A Shaw customer may experience an hour of outage every few weeks, or more frequently depending on neighbourhood26. Businesses that rely on Internet connectivity sometimes pay for two networks (e.g. Shaw + Telus) as a best practice27. Uniserve resells Shaw & Telus lines with its own accounts & pricing; it has coverage identical to these companies and need not be mentioned separately.

Cellular connectivity through Bell, Rogers and Telus is widely available in the city, but there has been little reason for subscribers to leave their normal, wired service. The recent launch of the new Bell/Telus28 network may generate more interest in cellular, especially to residents who need broadband access on the go (Real Estate agents, etc).

Verdict: As one expects with economies of scale and urban densities, Powell River city Internet access is comparatively fast, reliable and inexpensive. Service providers are all out-of-town companies, so there is no real sense of community involvement. Internet is treated like a utility that just works – and for the most part it does exactly that.

Area A

Beginning north of the city limits and including Sliammon First Nation, Lund, Savary, and Hernando, Area A is truly a mixed bag of access. Generally superior Internet service provided by Shaw spreads north from the city until it terminates on Sturt Road, having covered Sliammon through Klahanie as well as **** and Southview roads29.

Beyond the Sturt Road termination, access by Xplornet and the three Cellular providers are the only choice. Cellular coverage is good near the coast (covering such areas as Atrevida Road very well, especially on the Rogers network), but inland communities like the **** Road and “Dogpatch” must struggle for this signal. For some homes in this region, Xplornet, with its relatively high cost, becomes the only Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 924 Based on resident reports.

25 Many customers use personal wireless systems attached to these networks, however the method of delivery to the building is still wired.

26 Based on our own experience and customer reports.
27 Second Flux customer data and network research.

28 Bell and Telus partnered to launch the network, each company sells distinct access accounts.

29 Access is not 100% complete on these rural roads; we have reports of Southview residents who live too far up to have service.

option. Continuing north, cellular coverage remains tenable on both sides of the Malaspina Peninsula near the sea. The east side (lower Malaspina Road and surrounding area) generally works best with Bell/Telus, while the west side (Old Mine Road, Krompocker Road) works best with Rogers. Some portions of Malaspina Road near the highway are without signal, as is the descent toward Lund including Prior Road. Reliable cellular service does not exist here, except to those with ocean views.

Entering Lund itself, we find wireless radio service provided by Twincomm, which has received high marks from customers. Speeds and prices are reasonable, and while reliability is not perfect, users firmly believe it to be the best thing going. We received reports that without the access provided by Twincomm, some residents would simply move away. Twincomm’s range is relatively limited in Area A, serving Lund and most of Savary Island, as well as more remote properties on Hernando Island, **** Landing, Mink Island and Galley Bay. In another example of irony, broadband access in Desolation Sound is superior to portions of Highway 101. A few residents outside the core areas can also reach Twincomm’s service, but coverage is generally quite specific.

Perhaps the most exclusive Internet service provider in the region, MasterOne offers wireless connectivity to a handful of residents on south Savary, who remain out of range of Twincomm’s signal. The exclusivity stems from the fact that MasterOne is not currently accepting new customers. In addition to Savary, the service reaches a few homes on the mainland – primarily those that face toward Westview.

Cellular access was not tested from the Area A islands due to time constraints; we expect based on marine tests and reports from residents that coverage will be nearly universal on any property in view of the sea.

Moving north from Lund, coverage declines sharply. Here cellular service is sparse, with connectivity losses noted even on nearby **** Bay Road. Satellite seems like the only reliable broadband option. The first few kilometres of **** Point Road saw negligible coverage. The story is familiar: the further you get from an ocean view, the weaker this type of service becomes.

Verdict: Area A wants in! Some areas are badly underserved, while major communities like Sliammon and Lund are doing quite well. This area has the wide variety of access levels in the district, and faces challenges due to a widely dispersed population in varying terrain.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 10Area B

Beginning south of the city border and extending to **** Road, Area B includes Paradise Valley as well as Nootka, **** and **** streets beyond city limits. The area is reasonably well served by the same Powell River providers Shaw, Telus and Uniserve; coverage is not universal and Telus in particular does not serve all residences. The area has fairly reliable cellular coverage as well, with the Bell/Telus network showing particularly good levels of service on all properties we checked.

Verdict: Area B seems to enjoy the best Internet coverage of the electoral areas, benefiting as it does from proximity to the city and a topography that favours cellular transmission.

Area C

From **** Road south to Saltery Bay, including **** Point, **** Creek, **** Bay and Stillwater, Area C coverage runs the gamut from excellent to nil. Similar to Area A, service begins strongly with Shaw, Telus and Uniserve coverage south of the city.

Telus connectivity ends around **** Point, while Shaw terminates after **** Bay & Palm **** roads. Now cellular coverage must pick up the slack. Bell/Telus service is generally superior to Rogers in this area. Loubert Road is almost out of cellular range, but the Bell/Telus signal remained usable through that community (Leaside Road, **** Road, etc). Coverage is reduced but generally usable through to Saltery Bay, with improvements noted at higher points along the road. Saltery Bay itself is poorly covered by cellular, with Bell/Telus coverage reduced but still functional.

Despite coverage similarities to Area A, Area C does not have a dedicated service provider such as Lund finds in Twincomm and MasterOne. Saltery Bay and **** Stillwater/Scotch Fir are on the very edge of cellular coverage, and the area was recently identified by Industry Canada as unserved by broadband30. When cellular modems can’t work, an Xplornet satellite dish is the usual conclusion.

Verdict: Area C mirrors the access story of Area A in gradually decreasing service the farther you travel. Unlike Area A, there is no good news of a specialty access provider at the end. The final southern communities of Area C exemplify what a connectivity gap looks like today.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1130 Industry Canada, National Broadband Maps: Canada’s Unserved Area (click on BC **** Coast), D

Texada Island benefits from good coverage in Van Anda and **** Bay, provided by Twincomm and GBIS/LIAS31 respectively. **** services are regarded as superior to satellite and cellular by local residents; coverage can be quite specific with some homes “just up the hill” missing out. Reliability is not yet 100%, but users are generally quite satisfied with both services. **** is good, and cost is reasonable. The GBIS service inherits an unusually flexible rate structure from its upstream partner LIAS, as described in the Area E section. About 50 households are currently served by GBIS.

The Van Anda and **** Bay systems were funded by separate grants, so the two services are actually not permitted to overlap. There is still much expansion that either could pursue, into the rest of the island and perhaps beyond. As noted on page 7 of this report, the **** Bay Internet Society is building a new transmitter on Mt.

Pocahontas, its third on the island.

For residents living somewhere between the built-up areas of Van Anda and **** Bay, cellular Internet is often a viable choice. Cell coverage was reliable in most areas between the two communities, with Bell/Telus the overall winner. Shelter Road also fared well, and even the length of Central Road maintained reliable coverage with Bell/Telus, although Rogers was inconsistent. The east end of Texada Island is also well served; Crescent Bay Road only lost out at the very end (unusual, as coverage tends to improve near the sea). The roads around Blubber Bay have great coverage, and here the tables are turned, with Rogers superior to Bell/Telus. MasterOne provides a limited service to Blubber Bay; as mentioned earlier the company is not currently accepting new customers.

Verdict: Van Anda and **** Bay are well served by specialty providers, and service expansion continues. More remote residents must try their luck with cellular or satellite for now; cellular coverage is reasonable in most areas. Mixed topography and a widely distributed population present some challenges, but enthusiasm from the local specialty providers bodes well for the region.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1231 **** Bay Internet Society and Lasqueti Internet Access Society, in partnership.

Area E

Comprising Lasqueti and surrounding islands, Area E receives substantial wireless coverage from the Lasqueti Internet Access Society (LIAS). A transmitter on Vancouver Island provides the broadband service, which began in 200732. Grants played a vital role here, and include assistance from the BC Ministry of Labour and Citizens’ Services. About 80% of the island is within range of this signal today33, and service expansion is continuing. Approximately 100 households currently subscribe, with several of the islands around Lasqueti also using the service. Coverage gaps exist to the south near Squitty Bay, and well as the mid-island interior; expansion into these areas continues. The system is quite flexible, providing easy access to residents and visitors alike. Pricing is very competitive. Besides providing coverage locally, this signal is retransmitted on to Area D, where it enables the **** Bay Internet Society.

Cellular testing was not performed on Lasqueti as part of this study; coverage is expected to follow the usual rule of good access near the sea. The importance of cellular is diminished here by generally excellent (and still expanding) LIAS coverage.

Verdict: Thanks to the hard work of LIAS, broadband coverage is very good in this area. Some gaps remain as the society works to improve service. Like other local access providers in this report, LIAS demonstrates a high level of care for small population groups. Grants played an important role in this success story, and user revenue will help sustain the network going forward.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1332 Lasqueti Island Website - About Lasqueti Wireless • Discussions with **** Booker, Lasqueti Internet Access Society Manager
Finding the Gaps

No one Internet service reaches every PRRD resident. Of course, few services in this large and varied region are truly universal — as stated in the introduction, some households do not receive normal phone or even electrical service. Still, many residents who live in built-up areas have a reasonable expectation of broadband access. These homes tend to be situated on or near a major road (most often Highway 101, although other areas including rural Texada are indicated). Residents are not wilderness pioneers, they generally have normal electrical service, lot sizes, reasonable water systems, etc. Most of the people who agitate strongly for broadband Internet service do not consider themselves remote. The lack of Internet service may be the most significant barrier these residents face at their location.

Most gap areas do have access to Xplornet Satellite and Telus Dial-Up, but both of these technologies are regarded as imperfect by local residents. The poor performance of dial-up has already been proven, and Xplornet faces challenges with a necessarily high cost ($1600 per year for broadband speeds, 2-3 times higher than competitors34) as well as somewhat diminished reliability. If these issues are resolved, coverage gaps in the PRRD would close overnight: Xplornet service can be installed almost anywhere.

For now, however, the majority of residents do not consider it to be equitable broadband Internet access.

In performing the study, two areas stand out as proportionally underserved. These areas have a relatively high population combined with limited coverage options, although they are not the only communities so affected.

**** Road Neighbourhood (Area A)

Ten kilometres from the city limits on Highway 101, this area boasts a high household count (124 homes within a 3 km radius35, including 50 in the immediate vicinity36). The closest residents are 2 km from the last wired high-speed access, and wireless access Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1434 Normalized annual pricing for a three-year term at broadband speed, including initial costs. Cheaper options exist but do not qualify as broadband. For more pricing details, see Appendix A.

35 Based on door-to-door canvassing by **** Tebbutt, spring 2009; this includes Atrevida Road, which has better coverage options. Emmonds Road was not included and would increase the household count.

36 Known houses listed with the Powell River Regional District, **** and **** Creek roads plus “Dogpatch” and immediate highway.

is blocked by a cellular shadow across much of the area37. Phone line quality degrades dial-up access38, slowing down this already slow connection and causing disconnects.

Residents have a high interest in seeing something better. In the spring of 2009, area resident **** Tebbutt organized a petition for faster Internet access, collecting 96 signatures representing 74 neighbourhood homes39. Participation was without exception enthusiastic40. The petition was delivered to Telus, but failed to have an appreciable impact. Residents have lobbied Telus, Shaw and various levels of government with little to no results, so that broadband access has become something of a long-term grievance. At the same time there is a strong feeling from this community to keep working hard for this access. As Mr. Tebbutt demonstrates, residents are motivated and ready to help secure the access they have waited so long for.

Stillwater & Saltery Bay Neighbourhoods (Area C)

The communities south of **** Bay face diminishing coverage. Extensive properties have been developed in the area, and development of surrounding lands continues with substantial real estate projects. The lack of broadband access is a continuing source of frustration and disappointment; the area has actually lost residents because of this issue. Ex-resident **** Thomas provides a typical example: her job requires telecommuting, which Ms. **** could not fulfill due to lack of broadband. Unable to work from her residence on Leaside Road, she put her home up for rent and moved back to Calgary41. Ms. ****’s case is not unique42, and can only have a chilling effect on the local economy.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1537 Cited by residents and confirmed during live testing for this report, cellular coverage in many areas is poor on all three carriers (Bell, Rogers, and Telus).

38 Findings here are based on resident reports.
39 **** on file.

40 Noted by **** Tebbutt and confirmed by resident reports.

41 Based on resident reports.

42 It is difficult to reach individuals who have left the PRRD. However, we have reports from retired residents indicating that they would move away if they were still active in the workforce; other residents who do have broadband cite the use as mandatory to their ability to work in the community. Still others must drive to Powell River each day because they cannot telecommute from their rural home.

Other Important Mentions (Area A)

A patchwork of gaps remain throughout the regional district, some for only a few hundred metres or less. Without diminishing these remaining areas, it is important to highlight the Malaspina Road / Prior Road neighbourhood south of Lund, as well as the Baggi Road / **** Point Road neighbourhood to the north. These near-Lund areas are not in range of Twincomm as they do not border the sea; cellular coverage is likewise very poor. Residents cite access to business and educational opportunities as leading concerns. Generally speaking, they do not seem to share the same level of frustration as the **** and Stillwater areas mentioned above, possibly due to different expectations. Nevertheless, residents are keenly aware of what they’re missing, and have a right to request a fair share. Exact household numbers were not immediately available, but could easily exceed 40 in each of these near-Lund neighbourhoods.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 16Findings & Insight

Although many coverage gaps still exist, there is significant reason for optimism in the region. Key factors include:

1. Technologies are evolving rapidly, increasing speed and coverage while driving costs down. Gains are especially impressive in wireless technologies.

2. A healthy competitive environment exists in the region, with nine organizations providing service. Gaps still exist where choices are few and expensive, but these gaps are shrinking.

3. Despite operating in a recession, service providers are tending to grow their user base43. This fact speaks to the importance of broadband and the long-term sustainability of these organizations. Service providers remember the losses of the dot-com bubble44, and tend to manage budgets carefully.

4. Residents are increasingly willing to organize and get involved in their efforts to secure access, helping measure exactly what is needed. They do not want something for free; residents are willing to pay a reasonable price.

5. All levels of government are recognizing the importance of broadband, and the need to address remaining access gaps. Recent examples include strong federal and provincial initiatives, as well as the PRRD decision to commission this report.

In short, technologies are ramping up, the providers are willing to grow, the people know what they want, and the government is listening.

This is a powerful formula, and an exciting time for Internet access in the Powell River Regional District. Significant progress is possible. The most important challenges are to build on this momentum, and keep it focused on attainable goals.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1743 While access societies are generally eager to share user counts, commercial organizations are generally protective of these figures. Beyond the numbers available, growth claims are based on resident and customer reports, as well as our own experience in the community. A few services are shrinking, a few are static, but the majority is in growth, and the net overall user count must also be growing.

44 A huge boom-and-bust cycle occurring in 1999-2001, the dot-com bubble eliminated hundreds of Internet service providers that had grown too fast. The ISPs that followed tended toward smaller, more pragmatic budgets, less competitive brinkmanship, and readiness for varied economic climates.

Executive Insight

◆ Specialty service providers have the most interest in reaching into the small gaps.

Services like Twincomm and GBIS and committed to serving the needs of local residents on a personal scale, where even a dozen homes is an important user base.

Two important areas of consideration include:

◇ Twincomm has expressed real interest in serving mainland Area A residents via an inland wireless transmission system.

◇ Although intended for Texada, a new transmission tower in progress on Mt.

Pocahontas is well within broadcast range of residents in and around Stillwater.

The majority of Area C’s coverage gaps may be resolved by an expansion of service from this tower.

◆ Cellular Internet speed increased dramatically this month (November 2009), while coverage also expanded. Although the service is not appropriate for significantly heavy data transfer, light-to-average users would be well served at truly incredible speeds45. A hardware device called a signal booster or cellular amplifier can improve performance for customers on the edge of a network46. Competition is fierce in this area and the story is expected to get better. A related technology to watch is cellular tethering, which allows popular cellphones to work as USB modems when connected to a laptop. Using a cellphone as a modem reduces costs (often dramatically), and allows users to try out wireless access on a whim.

◆ Specialty ISP MasterOne is looking to sell its wireless access point to another provider. Transmission is based in Westview and reaches Savary and Texada islands in places not generally covered by other providers. A new owner for the system could bring immediate expansion and network improvements.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1845 Heavy usage is defined here as constant file sharing or multimedia use; see description in Appendix A.

46 Area residents have used cellular amplifiers by **** Electronics, for around $300. A good use for these devices are homes where cellular coverage barely exists, e.g. coverage is present from the driveway or the roof of the dwelling. We have not tested this technology; this month an Area A resident reported an incredible gain from “barely any service” to 4 out of 5 bars. **** amplifiers are available from **** Island Communications in Campbell River BC • 1 *-***-***-**** • www.nicomm.com
Novel Technologies

As is so often the case, several new technologies are waiting in the wings. Highlighted here are three of the most promising future technologies, backed as they are with widespread industry support, and with launch dates on the near horizon (1-2 years).

While none of these exist in the Powell River market today, all have the potential to dramatically change the access landscape if and when they arrive.

◆ Broadband over power lines (BPL) was suggested by the Powell River Regional Economic Development Society (PRREDS) in a 2008 briefing paper47. This technology can move broadband over conventional power lines directly to the home power outlet, dramatically simplifying distribution. Speeds of up to 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) are theoretically possible — an incredible 40 times faster than the fastest available access today48. BPL faced initial compatibility issues with **** American power lines as well as radio interference; these have generally been resolved49. Progress continues, with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards body ratifying the first official BPL standard just last month, October 2009. Although we believe wireless technologies hold the most promise for the PRRD at the moment, in a shifting marketplace these things can change overnight. BPL remains a dark horse technology that may play a key role in future regional access; participation from BC Hydro and the BC Transmission Corporation would be essential.

◆ The IEEE 802.2 Wireless Regional Area Network Standard (WRAN)50 is a future technology that has special potential for the area. Industry Canada’s Communication Research Centre identifies WRAN as the most promising choice for rural and remote broadband access51. Based on unused TV channel spectrum, these wireless signals can reach an impressive 40 km range, and are expected to handle difficult terrain extremely well. Prices are expected to drop into good affordability following the launch.

This standard is under development, and expected to complete in 2010. The 802.22 standard is from the same group that brought us 802.11 (popularly known as Wi-Fi), used in most personal computers today as the world’s most popular wireless protocol.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 1947 Prepared for the Powell River Regional District. PRREDS website: www.prreds.com48 As part of the standard. ITU **** Release: Canada’s National Amateur Radio Society: **** Line Communications IEEE **** Release • Industry Canada CRC, Rural and Remote Broadband◆ With cellular data technology well into its third generation, all eyes are on the next generation of cellular services — 4G. With speeds up to 15 times faster than currently available52, 4G technologies leave the new Bell/Telus network in the dust. Not that the companies are worried; both Bell and Telus have already announced plans to offer 4G service53, and Rogers is expected to follow suit. Cellular companies seem to be settling in for one continuous series of network upgrades, with even the current network (3G) eligible for more increases before retirement. Any further upgrades have the potential of surpassing wired access for speed. Importantly for this region, 4G allows reasonable data speeds up to 100 km from the tower. Almost all residents of the PRRD are within 100 km of a cellular tower54; only time will tell how this powerful new standard can handle the area’s mixed terrain.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2052 Based on current download speeds of 21.1 Mbps vs best-of-class LTE 4G speed of 326.4 Mbps.

Plenty of technical information is available on the 3GPP website • www.3gpp.org53 Bell **** Release, for example • Canadian Cellular Towers Map by **** Nikkel (PRRD Area Shown) •
Key Recommendations

◆ Interested parties should work with all local stakeholders, reducing wasted effort and streamlining communication. Groups should take a unified approach to working with various levels of government. There is great strength in numbers; let us speak for our region with a single voice. The PRRD can assist in this area by facilitating connections and bringing groups together. The recently formed Internet access committee should be a key partner in discussions involving Areas A & C.

◆ Local residents should be informed & empowered. Informed: provided with useful information on what Internet services exist today. Empowered: brought into relationships where they can work proactively to secure better access. The frustration of these residents is a powerful force, and should be channelled toward achievement of these goals.

◆ The PRRD should appoint an access consultant to regularly advise regional directors to the ongoing state of Internet access projects, technologies, opportunities, and challenges. This individual should also liaise with interest groups, stakeholders, and concerned residents in all areas of the PRRD. Progress reports could be provided from this position, and area residents would have a single, knowledgeable point of contact. This person should bring a good technical understanding of the industry, as well as excellent communication skills.

◆ PRRD should make up-to-date information available to residents concerning Internet options today. A public handout and/or web page could be prepared. This information would be especially useful for new or potential residents. If another community organization would be more appropriate home for this document (such as the Powell River Chamber of Commerce, or area websites), PRRD should help ensure that this information is comprehensive and accurate. Although the regional district has no specific obligation to provide this, being able to direct frustrated residents to useable information demonstrates good faith. As discussed above, this can help bring such individuals into larger action and support groups. Together we can reduce wasted effort and get on with the business of connecting our community.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 21Appendixes

Appendix A: Internet Service Providers

Service providers currently active in the PRRD are listed here in alphabetical order.

Telus appears more than once due to a wide variety of connectivity options. Bottom-line pricing has been collected, combining all normal costs a user is expected to pay to begin a service, and the monthly costs thereafter. Tax is not included, but every other fee is. Prices are residential; some ISPs charge more to business customers.

A summary and general comparison of ISPs can be found on page 6 of this report.

When considering access providers, we must consider speed and usage. **** is the amount of time the service takes to deliver content; faster speed means less waiting.

Some kinds of content are not possible at all without high speed. This report considers three speeds and three different usage levels.

Low **** - Only one technology is truly low speed, and that is dial-up.

Medium **** - Faster than dial-up, but not as fast enough as broadband55, these are often sold as “lite” or “basic” accounts. Be aware that medium speed connections are sometimes marketed as broadband, since the term is not legally binding.

High **** - Any service that qualifies as broadband in this report. Considered ideal for today’s Internet. The widest variety of accounts exist in the high speed segment, with some close to the minimum required speed and others far higher.

Usage does not describe the hours and minutes that you spend on a service, but how much data you use in a month; how much content has been transferred to or from your computer. These examples show usage over a typical high speed connection.

**** Usage - Email, basic web surfing (banking, shopping, light browsing). An hour of use a day.

Medium Usage - Using all normal features of the Internet in a moderate way. Email, average web surfing, some videos, a few big downloads, listening to online radio. Five hours of use a day. Today’s average Internet user.

Heavy Usage - The key factor here is frequency; heavy usage involves most of the same features, only much more aggressively, for example is all-day video streaming.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2255 A discussion of what constitutes broadband can be found on page 4.

Bell Canada • *-***-***-****

Although Bell offers a wide selection of Internet access products, only its mobile Internet package is currently offered in the PRRD. **** is extremely fast due to next-generation HSPA+ network, and coverage is good with a few noted exceptions.

Customers with laptops can bring this access with them across most of Canada.

Fastest wireless option in PRRD (tied with Telus56). At the moment, Bell offers a wider selection of cellular modems than Telus; brands used are different as well. Cellular modems purchased from Bell before November 2009 are likely CDMA, now essentially an obsolete technology. These should be replaced.

**** of service

21.1 Mbps Mobile Wireless. Very high speed; fastest wireless available.

Startup costs

$110 (with 2 year contract) or $210 (off contract) for typical hardware 57Monthly costs

**** usage: $37 per month (500 MB Traffic)
Medium usage: $92 per month (5 GB Traffic)
(many levels exist between these two options)

Usage is on a flexible plan, you pay only for the data used each month58. The flexibility is a welcome addition, especially for customers who may have varied usage habits.

Heavy usage is not advisable on this plan; far too expensive. 25 GB of data transfer would cost $69259.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2356 Testing for this report was performed with Telus hardware; since Bell shares the same network and technologies we can assume that results will be similar.

57 The Novatel Wireless U998 USB Modem Bell Mobile Internet Flex plan • $85 for 5 GB account, plus 20 GB extra at $30/GB, plus $7 system access fee. Internet Access Society (and **** Bay Internet Society) • *-***-***-****, or *-***-***-**** in **** BayAs discussed in Areas D and E, the LIAS (represented on Texada by GBIS) provides equitable wireless access to Lasqueti and Texada Island residents. See pages 11-12 for more details about this well-received service.

**** of service

1-2 Mbps measured speed. Access societies have little need to overstate speeds; a commercial organization may market such service as 11 Mbps. In any case, certainly enough for a high speed designation.

Startup costs

****-term users usually purchase a dedicated radio, prices can vary from $50 to $200 depending on site and technology used.

Monthly costs
$40 per month60.

(special prices also exist for hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly access)MasterOne Security & Technologies


Broadcasting on wireless radio from downtown Westview (Powell River), MasterOne serves a handful of customers on Savary, Texada, and a bit of the mainland shore. The company is not focused on wireless networking at the moment, and does not wish to grow that side of the business. In fact, current operator **** Unger is willing to sell this wireless access point off, ceding control to an appropriate service provider or access society. With new ownership, the network could easily be expanded. No other group is using wireless radios from this area, and the possibilities are intriguing.

**** of service

11 Mbps Wireless Radio, high speed, measured speeds similar to LIAS aboveStartup costs

Not applicable – not accepting new customers on systemMonthly costs

Not accepting new customers, existing customers pay less than $50.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2460 Lasqueti Wireless Rates •
Rogers Communications Inc • 888-ROGERS1

**** an innovator in cellular Internet, Rogers finds itself playing catch-up to rivals Bell and Telus. Previously the company led the entire **** American market with an aggressively modern cellular network. The Bell/Telus launch should lead to heightened competition as Rogers fights to regain its crown. The company already offers HSPA+ service in major Canadian cities (same speed as Bell/Telus); only basic HSPA is offered in the PRRD – that’s 3 times slower. Rogers has a long history of brining new technologies to this area. Their service footprint is slightly different from Bell/Telus, neither better or worse, but covering some different places on the edge of the network.

**** of service
7.2 Mbps Mobile Wireless – high speed.
Startup costs

$35 (with 2- or 3-year contract), $50 (with 1-year contract), $235 (off contract)61Monthly costs62

**** usage: $32 (500 MB traffic)
Medium usage: $83 (5 GB traffic)
(many levels exist between these two options)

The prices above are for fixed usage plans. Rogers may also offer a flexible rate plan similar to Bell63. Heavy usage is not advisable on any cellular plan; far too expensive.

25 GB of data transfer would cost $68764.

Rogers hardware is less expensive, but the speed difference weighs heavily on them.

Until Rogers upgrades service in this area, Bell/Telus have a significant advantage.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2561 Rocket™ Stick ZTE MF636 USB Modem. More expensive modems are available from Rogers, but not relevant to this area (no speed advantage yet). Rogers Data Plans • For a description of flexible rate plans, see the entry for Bell Canada on the previous page.

64 $85 for 5 GB account, plus 20 GB extra at $30/GB, plus $2 regulatory recovery fee. Communications Inc • *-***-***-****

Arriving in the PRRD back in **** 1998, Shaw quickly introduced the region to broadband access. With a largely unbroken record in providing the fastest Internet available, Shaw has generally managed to stay ahead of rival Telus ADSL, often adding capacity just in time. Recent network upgrades maintain the winning streak65, but Shaw faces new competition from cellular access.

Despite many network improvements in the past ten years, the Shaw coverage area does not tend to show growth. This is frustrating to rural residents who continue to wait a few kilometres (or in some cases, just 100 meters) from the termination point. Nor are Shaw’s higher speed packages available on all points of the their existing network.

Shaw data usage is extremely generous, with the most basic account exceeding medium usage needs. The rest of the accounts are suitable for heavy use, and Shaw doesn’t seem to charge surprise fees when customers stray over the line. The company is widely lauded for superior customer service.

**** of service

1 Mbps, 7.5 Mbps, 15 Mbps, or 25 Mbps. 1 Mbps is medium speed, while the rest qualify as high speed. The 25 Mpbs service is the fastest in the PRRD.

Startup costs
$0 - no charge for installation or hardware rental.
Monthly costs
1 Mbps Lite (medium speed): $31
7.5 Mbps High ****: $44
15 Mbps High **** Extreme: $54
25 Mbps High **** Warp (fastest in the area): $105

Shaw offers bundle savings to customers who order TV service, a common occurrence.

This reduces monthly costs by around $9.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2665 We were unable to find any residents using this new High-Speed Warp service, but customer service representatives and the Shaw website confirm availability.
Telus High **** Internet (ADSL) • *-***-***-****

A standard in the city of Powell River for many years, continuing upgrades keep the Telus ADSL66 network flexible and fast. Three plans offer user choice, from a minimal but inexpensive 256 Kbps, all the way up to 15 Mpbs. The two high speed plans include a neat modem/wireless router, allowing multiple computers to use this service right out of the box. Some coverage expansion seems to have occurred in Area C, but Telus ADSL is largely confined to the city of Powell River and Area B.

Usage limits are similar to Shaw, very generous. The most basic account exceeds medium usage needs, and the rest are suitable for heavy use. Telus doesn’t seem to charge surprise fees when customers stray over the line.

**** of service

256 Kbps, 6 Mbps, or 15 Mbps. The first package is fairly slow (second slowest after dial-up), while the rest are quite fast.

Startup costs

$0 - no charge for hardware rental; user installs service themselves.

Monthly costs

256 Kbps High **** Lite (a misnomer, as this is medium speed): $256 Mbps High ****: $35

15 Mbps High **** Turbo: $48

Telus offers bundle savings to customers who order telephone or digital TV services67, a very common occurrence. This reduces monthly costs by $5.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2766 A technical term relating to high speed over digital phone lines. Telus avoids the term in modern marketing; we use it here to differentiate from the company’s two other offerings.

67 Telus High **** Internet: Plans & Prices •
Telus Mobile Internet • *-***-***-****

Similar to Bell, Telus Mobility offers best-of-breed cellular service in the area. **** is extremely fast due to next-generation HSPA+ network, and coverage is good with a few noted exceptions. Customers with laptops can bring this access with them across most of Canada. Fastest wireless option in PRRD (tied with Bell). Cellular modems purchased from Telus before November 2009 are likely CDMA, now essentially an obsolete technology. These should be replaced.

**** of service

21.1 Mbps Mobile Wireless. Very high speed; fastest wireless available.

Startup costs

$35 (with 2- or 3-year contract), $165 (with 1-year contract), $285 (off contract)68Monthly costs69

**** usage: $30 (500 MB traffic)
Medium usage: $85 (5 GB traffic)
(many levels exist between these two options)

Heavy usage is not advisable on any cellular plan; far too expensive. 25 GB of data transfer would cost $108570, excessive even by cellular standards.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2868 **** Wireless 306 Mobile Internet Key • Telus Mobile High **** Plans • $85 for 5 GB account, plus 20 GB extra at $50/GB.
Telus Dial-up Internet • *-***-***-****

Telus offers two dial-up plans anywhere its phone service is available71. The short-comings of dial-up are well known, but at least the service is relatively affordable.

**** of service
56 Kbps, “low speed” no matter how you cut it.
Startup costs

$0, but hardware is not included. If customer does not already have a dial up modem, these cost $35-$80 from third parties.

Monthly costs
$14 for up to 12 hours per month
$27 for unlimited use
Twincomm • *-***-***-****

Service areas in the PRRD include Lund, Van Anda, and Galley Bay, as well as Savary, Hernando, and Mink Islands. Installation consists of mounting a wireless radio system which receives a signal from a Twincomm’s repeater stations. Usage limits are reasonable, easily accommodating medium usage habits.

**** of service
512 Kbps, 1 Mbps, or 1.5 Mbps; medium-speed to high.
Startup costs72
$300 (additional equipment may be required)
Monthly costs
512 Kbps **** (Medium ****): $39
1 Mbps Standard (Medium ****): $59
1.5 Mbps Office (High ****): $89

Discounts are available for educational uses, a rare and welcome option.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 2971 Telus Dial-up Plans • Twincomm Services •
Uniserve • *-***-***-****

Uniserve is a service reseller; they resell access lines from both Telus (ADSL) and Shaw.

Because of this relationship, coverage areas are essentially identical to the two companies. **** middle-of-the-road broadband accounts, although missing the high- and low-end options offered by larger companies. Usage limits are generous, accommodating heavy Internet use; the company does charge a moderate amount for overage that exceeds these high limits73. Despite charging slightly higher prices than Shaw or Telus for the service provided, the company commands a loyal following among customers who prefer to support this almost-local business. Founded in Aldergrove and now headquartered in New Westminster, BC, Uniserve is the closest thing Powell River city residents have to a local service provider. The company remains focused on excellent customer service.

**** of service
3 Mbps or 6 Mbps; high speed.
Startup costs74
$13 (if renting modem), $113 (if purchasing modem)
Monthly costs
3.0 Mbps (high speed): $41
6.0 Mbps (high speed): $45

Purchasing the modem reduces monthly costs by $5. Other promotions often reduce first-year charges.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 3073 70 GB and 100 GB limits respectively, with reasonable over-limits charges of $2 per GB.

74 Uniserve DSL Plans (other options may exist for cable Internet, not listed) (Barrett Xplore) • *-***-***-****

Satellite goes everywhere. That’s the message local installer **** Roscovich tells his clients, and he’s right. No other technology comes close to this level of coverage, although it also means relatively high prices. Hardware costs start at $199, but installation and activation can set customers back hundreds of dollars more.

Customers may find their speeds throttled back if usage exceeds the network’s design75; this happens more often with the less expensive accounts. The service is designed for light and medium usage, not heavy; the decision to “slow down” users is unpopular but generally preferable to large fines.

**** of service

Eleven plans offer widest variety on market. 5 accounts aimed at home users range from 512 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps, all are medium-speed. Six business-class accounts offer best performance from 1.5 Mbps to 5 Mbps, all high-speed.

Startup costs

$500 (with 3 year contract) to $800 (off contract). An installation sale is currently available to local residents, and could lower these rates by $150.

Monthly costs

512 Mbps KaZam (medium speed): $50 on contract, or $60 off contract76.

1.5 Mbps KaBang (high speed): $12077
(Nine other accounts are available)

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 3175 Xplornet Traffic Management Policy Xplornet **** Packages • Xplornet Business Packages • Full Disclosure

This report was prepared by **** McLean and the team at Second Flux Information Services. As local residents, we use many of the Internet services that are listed in this report. The following relationships with Internet Service Providers are listed below, in the interests of full disclosure.

1. **** McLean & Second Flux use or have recently used services provided by Bell, MasterOne, Rogers, Shaw, and Telus, independently from this report.

2. The report was assisted by Telus, who provided an important piece of testing hardware without charge.

3. **** McLean & Second Flux have worked with **** Unger of MasterOne many times in the past, as well as **** Roscovich, local installer for Xplornet.

None of the foregoing should effect the neutrality or conclusions of this report.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 32Appendix B: Testing methodology

A key goal in preparing this report was to understand the nature of cellular coverage in the Powell River Regional District. Published service maps show great coverage through much of the area, but the truth on the ground can be different, especially with a distance signal like cellular. Thanks to timely assistance from Telus78, we were able to test this network just as it launched. The competing Rogers network was tested at the same time, using equipment already on hand.

Strict limits on time and budget required a basic testing methodology, which was not intended to be exhaustive. A Telus cellular modem79 was used in conjunction with a modern laptop while driving the region. A simple 6' USB extension cord allowed the antenna to be sited high in the vehicle, near an inside window. At no time did the antenna protrude from the vehicle, so that testing was more equivalent to typical in-home use.

An Apple iPhone 3GS acted as a control test for the Rogers HSPA cellular network80.

The use of a smartphone rather than a USB modem likely did Rogers a disservice, as USB modems can be more powerful. Since the main purpose of the cellular survey was to find coverage gaps rather than compare individual speed and performance, we considered this approach adequate. A comprehensive test would have required two cars, two laptops, and multiple runs.

Environmental conditions can affect cellular signals in various ways, and even time of day can affect the network. While service was often measured twice, a comprehensive test would include multiple runs over several weeks, or even months — unrealistic for a report of this nature.

All tests focused on HSPA and HSPA+ cellular technologies. Rogers has long supported HSPA, and the older CDMA/1X technologies used by Bell/Telus are depreciated in favour of their new network. Residents who purchased Bell or Telus cellular modems before November 2009 are using the older technology, and are urged Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 3378 The author thanks **** Black of Telus for generously providing an HSPA+ cellular modem for the duration of this test. Availability of this modem was extremely limited due to the recent launch. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. **** and Telus, one of the first users on this brand new network was our testing team.

79 The **** Wireless 306 • Pre-existing Rogers HSPA service at 7.2 Mbps faced the Bell/Telus HSPA+ service at 21.1 Mbps. upgrade. With industry dropping support for these older technologies, we were comfortable not including these in our tests.

This survey did not visit the homes of any residents, again owing to time concerns. As we travelled the area, however, we did measure service beside the homes of some interested residents.

Given these limits, tests performed by our technicians were more than adequate to inform the survey, answering the important questions of cellular coverage in the district.

Appendix C: Maps

To illustrate our findings, colour Internet Access maps were developed for the district.

The three maps are designed so that minimum service levels are shown for each area.

For example, while cellular Internet exists in the City of Powell River, residents generally prefer wired service from Shaw, Telus and Uniserve. That is the service level shown on the map. Compare this to **** Road in Area A. With few connectivity options, **** Rd is colour-coded for cellular — the minimum service that exists in that area.

As discussed earlier, Xplornet's satellites have nearly universal access across the regional district: if it's on the map, chances are good that a satellite can reach it.

Wireless coverage strength is not considered on these maps, and small outage gaps are not shown. More comprehensive testing would be required to illustrate this accurately, and the resulting data would be complex. The maps are intended as a general overview of the area, where patterns are more important than meter by meter accuracy. This perspective allows coverage data to be presented cleanly and simply.

All data is based on our findings and area tests, and is current as of November 2009.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District – **** 34

Intervention: Powell River Regional District (Intervenor 183)

Document Name: 2015-134.223678.2385247.Intervention(1f4gv01!).pdf

Intervention: Powell River Regional District (Intervenor 183)

Document Name: 2015-134.223678.2385249.Intervention(1f4gx01!).pdf
Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District:
2011 Refresh

Report prepared by **** McLean, Second Flux Information ServicesCommissioned by the Powell River Regional District

February 2011

Second Flux Information Services • *-***-***-**** • ******@***.comPowell River Regional District • *-***-***-**** • ******@***.comInternet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 1Introduction! 3

Summary of Changes: Broadband on the Rise! 4
National Issues! 5
CRTC Broadband Hearings! 5
Broadband over **** Lines! 8
Xplornet 4G Network! 8
Local Issues! 10
Dial-Up Continues to Fall Behind! 10
Cellular Internet: Hits & Misses! 10
**** Bay Internet Society Waits for Funding! 11
Twincomm Mulls Broadband Expansion! 12
RosComm Offers Cellular Boosters Locally! 13
Closing Thoughts! 13
Appendix A: Changes in Monthly Access Prices! 14

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 2Introduction

To better understand the state of Internet access in the Powell River Regional District, a comprehensive report was commissioned by the District Office in November 20091. The report helped identify connectivity gaps in the region, where many rural residents lacked access to affordable broadband Internet2. Solutions for closing these gaps were discussed, and different technologies were examined for suitability in the area.

Much has changed in the 15 months since this report was first published, both nationally and at home. This brief update will summarize the most significant changes, and is designed to compliment (rather than replace) the original report.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 31 Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District, available from District Office or online.

2 As in the original report, we define broadband as any type of Internet access that operates at 1.5 Mbps (Megabits per second) or faster, a generally accepted standard in this country. Unless otherwise noted, all technical terms and assumptions in this update will follow the same guidelines as the original report, and any disclaimers continue to apply. All trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective holders, and are used for illustrative purposes only.
Summary of Changes: Broadband on the Rise

Rural Internet access in Canada was a popular topic in 2010, drawing significant and sustained attention from the federal government and the opposition parties, as well as extensive coverage in the national media. The question was a grand one: Should broadband Internet be a universal right for all Canadians? An idea that was impossible just a few years earlier was now an open possibility. Countries like Australia3 and Spain4 had already made such a decision. And in **** 2010, the Broadband Commission’s report to the United Nations5 declared that:

“Broadband networks must be regarded as vital national infrastructure, similar to transport, energy and water networks, but with an impact that is even more powerful and far reaching.”

By the beginning of 2011, the concept of universal, affordable broadband had been discussed to a higher level then ever before. Despite such detailed coverage, lasting polices and solutions have yet to manifest. While the value of broadband Internet is no longer in question, there are significant differences of opinion as to the role of government in facilitating this process.

If progress on the national front could be summarized as “grand but inconclusive”, progress in the Powell River Regional District (PRRD) would be “modest but tangible”.

Changes have been incremental, with a number of small improvements to connectivity in the region. Prices are a sore point, with the cost of service increasing in many cases;

interestingly the small, locally based service providers have kept prices steady.

Several future technologies & improvements have also edged closer to deployment. All too often, novel solutions remain a few years in the future, never quite making the jump to reality. In Powell River, better connectivity options are closer in 2011 than they were in 2009, and the state of Internet Access today has generally improved.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 43 Australia’s National Broadband Network CBC News, November 18 2009: Should Canada enact a universal-broadband policy like Spain's?

5 A 2010 Leadership Imperative: The Future Built on Broadband, by The Broadband Commission for Digital Development. **** 13 of the plain-text report •
National Issues
CRTC Broadband Hearings

In **** 2010, the CRTC6 announced plans for a public hearing on the future of rural broadband7. For the first time, the commission would consider making broadband Internet a fundamental service, to be regulated in the same way it governs the country’s telephone infrastructure. Scheduled for October and November, the spring announcement gave telecom companies fair warning that Internet service could face regulatory controls. If the private sector could not adequately close the connectivity gap soon, there was a real chance that the government would act.

The hearings commenced October 27 in Timmins, Ontario. In his opening remarks, chair **** von Finckenstein noted that many residents of rural Canada have few if any options for affordable broadband, with relatively slow & expensive satellite access as the only typical choice8; this agrees with conclusions made in our original report9.

Provincial carriers MTS Allstream and SakTel both spoke in favour of a regulatory environment. “It’s simply unrealistic to claim market forces will do the job,” MTS president **** Shepherd said in a statement10. He proposed a 1-2% increase in national telephone bills to pay for the significant costs of broadband expansion, which he estimated could reach $700 Million a year for ten years.

“Not only do we think this [funded expansion] is workable, we think this is the only way universal broadband can be achieved that assures rural and remote Canada can get up to speed and stay up to speed with the rest of the country.” - MTS Allstream President **** Shepherd

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 56 Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission7 CRTC Notice of Consultation CBC News, CRTC holds hearings on rural broadband Finding the Gaps. Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District, **** 1410 IT World Canada, $7-billion rural broadband plan put to

National carriers Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, and Xplornet spoke out strongly11 and sometimes vehemently12 against the idea, calling it “unadulterated nonsense”, “ludicrous”, and “beyond outrageous”. These carriers argued passionately against broadband regulation, saying that technology and service improvements would soon close the gap without government intervention.

Another contentious point involved defining the percentage of Canadians who lack affordable broadband access. **** the CRTC and the telecommunications carriers used a national figure of 5%13; some advocacy groups believe this is understated.

Studies published by the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) show that 15% of all Albertans lack access to affordable broadband14.

Looking only at rural Albertans, the number without access is an astonishing 40%.

A similar disagreement in gap size was noted during our 2009 connectivity survey, where our real-world findings were at odds with official cellular coverage maps of the area. National coverage maps are often built with simple mathematical calculations (mean distance from nearest cellular tower, or presence on a street listed as covered), which simplify access considerations and may lead to an overstatement of coverage.

Detailed local surveys can identify resident access on a case-by-case basis. The federal government has solicited voluntary survey results from Canadians in the past, but this may still not be enough to guarantee accuracy.

Despite best intentions, it is possible that the number of Canadians who lack affordable broadband access is understated by government and industry, perhaps even by 2-3 times as indicated in the AAMDC report. Regardless of the measure, the number certainly draws more attention when urban residents are removed. Using the Alberta results as a basic model for Powell River, are we comfortable with 40% of rural residents lacking broadband access? Suddenly the issue seems larger than the 5% being discussed on the national stage.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 611 Toronto Sun, Telecoms oppose mandatory broadband

12 IT World Canada, Carriers fire broadsides at CRTC Cnews, Telecoms oppose mandatory broadband coverage AAMDC Refutes Statements Made by Telecoms and CRTC on Rural Broadband Coverage (PDF)

As the broadband hearings continued, the CRTC heard vigorous and disparate opinions from both sides. The situation required a strong and independent moderator, but recently the CRTC has faced unique challenges to that role. Some legal experts questioned the commission's right to even regulate Internet service, although the general legal consensus supports this15.

Other CRTC decisions raised national controversy, and recent government intervention in the commission has fostered an atmosphere of uncertainty. A decision to block wireless carrier Globalive (aka **** Mobile) from operating in Canada was overturned by federal cabinet. In the lawsuit that followed, the CRTC was found to have acted correctly by Canada’s foreign ownership rules; by that point **** Mobile was already well established in Canada but technically operating without license16. These types of embarrassing regulatory situations can create severe uncertainty in the industry, and can undermine the ability of the CRTC to make tough decisions.

In a controversial move, the CRTC recently allowed national ISPs to impose Usage Based Billing (UBB) on smaller carriers across the country. Rather than simply leasing the connection, UBB permits large carriers to sell bandwidth by the megabyte, which could significantly increase costs faced by the smaller operators. In Powell River, Shaw and Telus represent the infrastructure holders, while smaller operators like Uniserve, GBIS, and Twincomm all buy their connectivity from these players. The CRTC decision to essentially penalize smaller ISPs at the benefit of larger providers sparked national outrage, with over 450,000 names collected in an opposing petition17. The decision raised the national profile of the CRTC in a bad way, and brought promises from the federal government to revisit or completely overturn the plan. The CRTC has reopened discussions on this issue18.

Rural broadband hearings ended in November, with a decision excepted later in 2011.

It is clear that any leadership in this area will require a full-fledged battle, one that may Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 715 Yahoo! Canada Finance, Expert doubts CRTC jurisdiction in Internet CTV News, **** Mobile ruling backs CRTC over government The Open Media **** lists 463,695 names as of Feb 14, 2011; online petitions are open to some manipulation and should not be considered audited. • Vancouver Sun, CRTC billing about-face be politically tenable for the CRTC to fight at this time. On the other hand, a strong and popular decision could restore public confidence in a commission battered by recent events. The possibility of an upcoming federal election will bring new pressures from policy makers eager to show their support for universal broadband. For now, Canada’s rural broadband strategy hangs in the balance.

Broadband over **** Lines

The possibility of transmitting Internet through BC Hydro’s power lines continues to tantalize. Listed as a Novel Technology in our 2009 Internet Access report, Broadband over **** Lines (BPL) enjoyed heightened interest recently. During the 2010 **** Olympics in Vancouver, local innovator Corinex brought a limited form of BPL to several olympic sites19; the company is headquartered in Vancouver. BC Hydro is in year three of a 20 year infrastructure upgrade, bringing the province to a fully modernized **** Grid20. **** grids generally include a BPL component, and many industry experts state that BPL is an essential part of the smart power grid21. BC Hydro has made no public comments, timelines, or commitments regarding broadband over power lines.

Xplornet 4G Network

Announced a month before our original report, the Xplornet Jupiter satellite system remains on schedule for widespread availability in 2012. This availability is expected to bring heightened speeds and lower costs to rural residents. Meanwhile the company has introduced a terrestrial (land-based) component ahead of the launch, bringing next-generation 4G wireless to rural Quebec via new cellular towers. Plans are in place for additional 4G towers coast to coast, possibly getting the drop on more established players like Bell, Rogers, and Telus. The combination of cellular towers and overhead satellites will bring 4G speeds (25 to 100 Mbps, very fast) and enhanced coverage to “bridge the broadband divide”22. Leveraging cutting edge technologies like WiMax and HTS (High-Throughput Satellite), Xplornet is poised to bring very real improvements to Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 819 Corinex press release •

20 BC Hydro Fact Sheet: **** Grid • ELP article: Are utilities looking hard enough at **** Grid’s communications backbone?
22 Xplorenet **** Release.

rural broadband in Canada23. In the CRTC hearings discussed above, the company promoted this strategy as evidence that connectivity gaps will close without government intervention. While Powell River won’t begin to see these upgrades until 2012 at the earliest, current Xplornet users in the area should see network congestion ease as customers across Canada start migrating to the new system, freeing up space on the older satellites that currently serve our area24.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 923 Winnipeg Free ****, **** Xplore launches 4G network for high-speed Internet in rural

24 Based on discussions with local Xplornet installer **** Roscovich of Roscomm, Feb 2011.
Local Issues
Dial-Up Continues to Fall Behind

In 2009, the fastest consumer broadband available in Powell River was a whopping 446 times faster than dial-up. If that number seems hard to grasp, today it is four times larger. A dial-up Internet user can expect speeds 1,785 times slower than Shaw Nitro;

what a Nitro user can download in one minute would take about 29 hours on dial-up.

Of course, Shaw’s flagship Internet package costs more than a dial-up account25.

Nonetheless, Nitro stands as a stunning example of how large the gap between slowest and fastest has grown. Those with high-speed access can expect regular connectivity improvements, while dial-up continues to age beyond obsolescence.

Cellular Internet: Hits & Misses

Telus and Bell introduced a new kind of cellular Internet to Powell River in late 200926, at speeds rivalling the fastest wired connections. Since then, many rural residents have switched to this technology. Rogers also offers this speed now. Suitable for light to medium Internet use, 3G cellular Internet remains prohibitively expensive for heavy users due to a staggering $50 per gigabyte fee27. Basic email and web surfing is fine, but don’t try to download a high definition movie - your overage cost could be $150 for just one show28. At first only Telus charged this much; later Bell and Rogers followed suit. All three carriers have normalized their monthly rates, making service quotes between them almost identical at this time. Aside from the draconian overage rate, regular monthly costs are low and tend to have dropped 29.

In the Malaspina Rd, Okeover area, some users reported strange problems with their new Telus or Bell 3G sticks. After working normally in the first part of 2010, the Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 1025 Shaw Nitro costs about five times more than Telus Unlimited Dialup.

26 A type of advanced cellular technology known as “Evolved High-Speed Packet Access” or HSPA+, this is almost marketed under the more generic 3G or 3.5G moniker. Older 3G technologies are outclassed by HSPA+, often by a huge margin.

27 Conditions for overage fees can differ based on account types. On a typical flex plan offered by any of the 3 providers, overage kicks in once you pass 5GB per month.

28 Using leading Internet movie provider Netflix as an example, 3 GB for a 2 Hour HD movie.

Streaming Media Blog, Detailing Netflix's Streaming Costs • See Appendix A in this document for details.

coverage area seemed to shift and exclude many homes. Carriers eventually switched some customers back to older 3G technology based on CDMA30. No other areas in the district reported this strange problem; of course, some areas never had reliable cellular access in the first place. Cellular boosters may be purchased to improve borderline cellular performance in the home or vehicle; RosComm now offers these products locally (see below).

Cellular Internet has made a positive difference for many basic Internet users, and uptake in the region is increasing. The service is not a perfect solution due to somewhat limited coverage and disproportionately high cost for heavy use; rural residents that avoid those two categories are benefitting well.

**** Bay Internet Society Waits for Funding

Construction of the new Mt. Pocahontas transmission tower was one of the most exciting stories carried in our original 2009 report. Today the tower stands unfinished as the **** Bay Internet Society (GBIS) waits for its next round of funding. The tower site is not accessible to cranes, so final assembly work will proceed by helicopter when funding comes through. The tower will stand 100 feet (30 meters) tall and must endure high wind conditions, necessitating an expensive construction process. The anchor points are set and the tower’s lowest section now stands. A shed has been built on site for the redundant power system, designed to keep the tower operational through an extended (multi-day) blackout.

The society applied for additional grants in November 2010; they expect word by **** 2011. If the applications are approved in full, funds will complete the main tower and two additional towers as well. One tower will be built near the Oasis neighbourhood (between Van Anda and **** Bay), while the second will cover the Bell Rd area. These towers can work as repeaters, extending the GBIS coverage area to more residents (around eighty new homes).

Unlike the larger carriers, GBIS has not raised their rates. Recent equipment upgrades are gradually increasing speeds (1.8 Mbps was a recent average). Director John Dove highlighted their exceptional upload speed, which at 1.4 Mbps is faster than, for example, Shaw Extreme’s upload speed31. Download speeds are the most important, Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 1130 Based on resident reports, 2010-2011.

31 Information on hardware updates and increased speed tests courtesy of GBIS director John Dove.

but having a superior upload speed is still a great advantage, benefiting video conferencing, content providers (website designers, YouTube contributors), and other Internet applications.

The new tower on Mt. Pocahontas will accommodate a variety of antennas and transmitters. As exclusively identified in the 2009 Internet Access report, much of Powell River’s mainland shore is in range of this tower. Area C (south of town) remains largely underserved for broadband; Texada could play a key role in bringing access back to the mainland. This is beyond the scope of GBIS: the society’s mandate comes from Texada, and the logistics of supporting a customer base separated by a ferry ride does not appeal.

Instead, GBIS invites any like-minded mainland society to come forward and assume this role. Such a society could rent space on the tower and bounce signal back to the mainland. The most likely scenario involves leasing a mainland connection from Telus, transmitting that signal to Mt. Pocahontas, and relaying that signal back to Area C customers in range of the tower.

Area C residents should monitor this situation closely. Once the Pocahontas tower is operational, a partnership with GBIS should certainly be explored. The tower represents an enormous opportunity for anyone in range; steadily improving wireless technologies are improving that range every month.

Twincomm Mulls Broadband Expansion

While national service providers continue to gradually raise prices, local ISP Twincomm is still charging the same fees today as in 200932. Some speed increases are planned for later this year as well.

The company is planning to grow its service area in 2011, based on user input.

Twincomm generally serves islands and coastlines but has considered inland areas in the past. Some of their service territory lies outside the PRRD (Cortes and Quadra Islands, for example), so the expansion might not take place in this area. Interested parties can email president Constantinos (Dino) Tsakonas at ******@***.com; he will consider all user input carefully in planning this next expansion. Based on our 2009 connectivity survey, PRRD Area A (north of town) likely has the best chance of Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 1232 See Appendix A in this document for details.


expanded service. The best way to improve service is to ask for it; underserved residents shouldn’t hesitate to contact Tsakonas.

RosComm Offers Cellular Boosters Locally

FIrst identified in the 2009 Internet Access report, cellular boosters have become a vital technology for many rural residents. These boosters take a weak, hardly-there cellular signal and upgrade it to something more reliable and fast, helping residents who live on the edge of cellular service. Properly installed boosters can improve both voice and data quality, and cost a few hundred dollars. At the time of our report these products were not carried locally, after it was published we encouraged local contractors to step up and meet that need. As a result, **** Roscovich of RosComm now offers a comprehensive line of **** boosters for local purchase and installation33; the move has allowed RosComm to diversify their offerings from satellite to cellular. The company also sells cellular routers, allowing customers to share a single 3G connection with multiple computers. RosComm continues to offer Xplornet satellite installation, and is monitoring Xplornet’s 4G network expansion with interest.

Closing Thoughts

The connectivity gaps identified in our original report are smaller today, although much work still lies ahead. Local efforts will continue to address these gaps in modest ways, while national decisions and next-generation technologies advance closer to reality.

User satisfaction in the PRRD seems significantly higher today than in 2009. We found that even in gap areas, residents feel much better about their chances of gaining access in the future34. Our 2009 report sent a clear message that concerns were being heard in the region, and gave residents concrete goals to look forward to. More connectivity options exist than before, and residents are better informed about them.

This year, every major political party and level of government has expressed respect for broadband access. The concerns of rural residents are our concerns, Canada’s concerns. This is not an issue that will be forgotten.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 1333 RosComm: *-***-***-**** •

34 Based on resident reports, 2009-2011.
Appendix A: Changes in Monthly Access Prices

Shaw and Telus have typically raised prices by around 10% since 2009. Strangely, Telus dial-up users faced the highest increases by percentage (up to 20%); this is discussed in detail below. Local carriers Twincomm and GBIS have not increased rates, nor has Xplornet; boutique reseller Uniserve has actually reduced rates significantly.

Meanwhile, the 3 national wireless carriers appear to have harmonized their pricing structure, making quotes between the three basically identical.

The inflation rate during this time was 1.7%35, or nominal; differences shown are not adjusted for inflation.

Bell Mobility costs bucked the trend by dropping 5-24% as they moved to match Telus. However, they also adopted the higher overage fees favoured by Telus, an increase of 40%. This bodes well for light users, but has implications for heavy use36.

Lasqueti Internet Access Society (and **** Bay Internet Society) prices remain largely unchanged37. ****-world account speeds tend to be increasing, as local hardware updates continue38.

Rogers Mobility costs have shown minor increases & decreases (+/- ~10%) as the company normalized plan pricing. Overage costs have increased by 40%. As with Bell, this has implications for heavy use. Rogers flexible pricing is almost identical to Bell and Telus, with the addition of an extra $1.96/month system access fee39.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 1435Canada Inflation Rate, Nov 2009 to Dec 2010 Bell Flexplan. $35/month 500 MB, $70/month 5GB. Overage @ $50/ Lasqueti Wireless Rates. $40/month or $400/year. • Information on hardware updates and increased speed tests courtesy of GBIS director John Dove.

39 Rogers Flexible Plan, $36.96/month 500 MB, $71.96/month 5GB. Overage @ $50/GB. Communications prices have increased by 2-12%. A new Shaw Nitro plan has been introduced. The Shaw Warp plan has been doubled in speed for a mere 2% price increase, other plans are holding at the same speeds40.

Telus Dial-up costs have increased by 13-20%41. Accounts are priced fairly low, so this is only a few additional dollars per month. Still, users are troubled by any price increases, as they point out that dial-up speed, performance, and quality of service are generally stagnant or even declining42. We did not contact Telus for comment on these increases, due to the limited nature of this update. A possible reason for the price changes is a shrinking dial-up user base, with declining economies of scale.

Telus High **** Internet (ADSL) has seen price increases of 8-17%. Telus High-**** Lite is now 4 times faster at 1 Mbps (up from 256 kbps)43. This is excellent, but the company is falling behind Shaw in terms of higher speed options for the area.

Telus Mobile Internet costs have shown minor increases & decreases (+/- ~15%) as the company normalized flex plan pricing. Overage costs are the same, too high for heavy use. Pricing is at the moment identical to Bell44.

Twincomm prices and plans remain largely unchanged45.

Uniserve prices have dropped by 11-27%, a significant and laudatory change46.

Xplornet (Barrett Xplore) is unchanged for typical connectivity prices47.

Internet Access in the Powell River Regional District: 2011 Refresh – **** 1540 Shaw Internet Plans. 1 Mbps $35, 7.5 Mbps $47, 15 Mbps $57, 50 Mbps $107, new 100 Mbps $160.

41 Telus Dial-Up Plans. $18 for 12 hours, $31 Unlimited. • Based on resident reports, 2010-11.

43 Telus ADSL Plans. 1 Mbps $30, 6 Mbps $39, 15 Mbps 52. • Telus Flexible Plan, $35/month 500 MB, $70/month 5GB. Overage @ $50/GB.

45 Twincomm Services. 512 Kbps $39, 1 Mbps $59, 1.5 Mbps, $89 • Uniserve Plans. 3 Mbps, $29.95. 6 Mbps, $39.95. Xplornet Services. 1 Mbps $59.99, 1.5 Mbps $119.99, etc. |