The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association
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The Connected Coast Project

Stephen and Nancy Carlman

August 28th, 2023

A $45.4 million dollar project, designed to bring high-speed Internet to BC’s remote coastal communities, has raised concerns in the recreational boating community.

The first 50km of undersea fiber-optic cable of the Connected Coast project was laid this winter to kick off a development. This  will see more than 3,000km of undersea fiber-optic cable, stretching from Vancouver to Haida Gwaii and around Vancouver Island, connecting about 139 coastal communities.

While the development is generally welcomed by the recreational boating community, it may also present a hazard for boaters cruising in some of the more remote areas of the province. The problem arises from the cable running through places where boats are likely to anchor.

Peter Stockdill is the spokesperson for the Council of BC Yacht Clubs (CBCYC), which monitors and advocates for the interest of BC’s recreational boaters. He indicated that:

Some cable will run through anchorages widely used by recreational boaters, without any signage to indicate the presence and location of cable on the sea floor….Vessels that snag their anchors on the cable may have to abandon expensive ground tackle if the cable cannot be freed. In the worst case scenario, the cable may be heavily damaged, resulting in loss of internet service.

At its September 2021 meeting, the Council passed two relevant motions:

  • the Council of BC Yacht Clubs supports the intent of the proposed Connected Coast project, but strongly opposes the installation of any submarine cables which cross anchorages recognized on Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) nautical charts and/or in CHS Sailing Directions, and;
  • the Council urges Transport Canada to ensure that the Connected Coast project be required to install appropriate signage indicating the presence and location of underwater cables in any potential anchorage areas.

According to the Connected Coast website, “the cable location will be placed on marine charts so mariners are aware of the locations, as other submarine cables are. Information will also be placed at landing sites.”

Stockdill responds:

Yes, the cable location will ultimately be placed on CHS charts, but this will take a long time, perhaps several years. With regard to signage, we do not know what information they are planning at landing sites.  Normally a NO ANCHOR CABLE sign is required by Transport Canada, but they will only be involved in about 10% of the landings. Only Transport Canada can authorize such signs.

[Editor’s note: from the connectedcoast.ca (Aug 23, 2023): “signage alerting mariners of the new fibre cable network on BC’s seafloor has been created and posted in high-traffic dock locations. Please spread the word and share signage with others.” One can download these signs here (two examples can be seen in the title image).]

The project is managed and implemented by the communication company CityWest and the Strathcona Regional District (SRD), who together form the Connected Coast Partnership. The project is being designed and built by Baylink Networks of Port Coquitlam.

Funding is provided by the Government of Canada’s Connect to Innovate (CTI) program, Indigenous Services Canada, and the Province of BC, through the Connecting British Columbia program administered by Northern Development Initiative Trust.

The Council’s campaign has so far met with both success and failure: at Alert Bay, the landing has been moved outside the Bay, and at Refuge Cove the proposed cable routes have been  moved to a safer area. Still of concern is Port Neville, where representations were made but no changes have resulted. Other areas remain of concern, notably Heriot Bay and Granite Bay, and Port Hardy, where Stockdill indicates the proposed cable routes are a problem.

The project is ongoing and Stockdill says that the Council remains vigilant and will monitor the project as it progresses towards completion. As construction progresses, points of connectivity will begin to go live in a phased approach. Construction will generally occur north to south and to be working on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island over the summer of 2023. The last group of communities are expected to be fully online in 2023.

All construction planning and activity is highly dependent on weather and permitting.  The Connected Coast team is adopting a flexible approach to roll out the project as needed. In early March, the project was four months behind schedule.

For more information and to stay up-to-date on the progress of the project, visit the Connected Coast website.

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