A project to dramatically upgrade the speed and reliability of the Internet communications infrastructure in Hay River is over half completed.
On Sept. 10, Paul Gillard, the vice-president of business markets for NorthwesTel, updated town council – by telephone – of the so-called Fibre to the Home project, which is seeing fibre optic cables being laid in many parts of the community.
“But it probably doesn’t feel half done being in town,” said Gillard. “I know you will have seen some activity. The nature of a Fibre to the Home build is there’s a lot of effort at the start of the project on distribution cable, on feeder cable.”
In about three weeks, cable will be showing up for workers to connect individual homes.
“And then it will just be house after house after house,” said Gillard. “They’ll be doing 100-150 homes a day…. That’s when people will probably feel the build a little bit more. They’ll be in people’s backyard. They’ll be climbing fences and climbing poles. But the project is just a little over 50 per cent complete now.”
The NorthwesTel spokesperson said the work is going really well – in fact, better than expected – and it will be done around the end of October or the start of November.
“When it’s done, 94 per cent of the homes in Hay River will be served with Fibre to the Home,” said Gillard. “Similar numbers for business. Actually, maybe slightly higher with businesses as they tend to be concentrated more towards the centre of town.”
However, he noted that Paradise Valley and Delancey Estates are both outside the project.
“Like anything with telecommunications, the further you get away from the central office, the harder it is to get the thing out there. The more power, the more infrastructure that’s required,” he said, adding those areas tend to be on the fringes of a community and have lower populations. “It’s hard to deliver, it’s more expensive and you’re serving fewer and fewer customers as you get away from the central location in town, and eventually you cross a line where the business case just can’t be made.”
Gillard said the hope is to eventually include Paradise Valley and Delancey Estates with possible federal funding that NorthwesTel plans to pursue.
“So just because they’re not in now doesn’t mean they never will be in it,” he said.
Gillard did note that a “significant chunk” of the Hay River Reserve will be included.
The project is NorthwesTel’s first Fibre to the Home project in its operating territory, and it is hoped to be emulated elsewhere.