Island News & Views
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General · 20th May 2017
Jim Abram
A very blustery day is just what I needed to be inside writing a report! I am just wondering when we are actually going to get some consistently good weather!?! Oh well! At least it is not snowing or flooding, so I am grateful for that.

Congratulations!
First and foremost I would like to congratulate our MLA for her re-election. All the very best to you Claire, and I look forward to working with you over your term. I know you personally worked very hard during the election because you believe in what you do and I thank you for doing it!

I would also like to thank the other candidates for allowing their names to stand in the Election process. It is a tough decision and takes courage, especially when running against a strong incumbent. The important thing is that you cared enough to try and I thank you for that.

Connectivity / Cell coverage and more
Just the topic everyone is waiting to hear about and I have not been able to adequately report on due to it being dealt with in confidence at the SRD Board table. It has been so very frustrating to have people think that nothing was going on when I knew that behind the scenes we were working our backsides off. Many staff, our consultant and I have had this on the front burner for months and I have been working on connectivity in general since 1993 when I got the ADSL in the Cove central area. I later managed to hound Telus enough to get them to put their equipment on the Cantel / Rogers tower at Noble and Heriot Bay Rd. to improve the area covered and with a higher level of coverage being LTE in some parts. This has been a slow never ending battle, but one I chose to fight to the end and am still continuing on your behalf.

I met with the Discovery Islands Chamber of Commerce and others some months ago and some have finally picked up on trying to gather support from Telus to increase coverage through a petition and letters as I suggested. I am confident that this effort will at least show the ever increasing need for better connectivity of all sorts, but what Telus does with it is anyone’s guess! I will certainly use the info in my lobbying efforts and it is so important that whatever people are doing, they forward it to me for use… letters, petitions or whatever!.

I would caution everyone that the petition and letters, though asking for improved coverage, will require a number of very expensive cell towers and will never reach all of the nooks and crannies on the island’s topography. It just isn’t possible, so don’t expect a perfect world. Some areas will never have cell service back in the areas that it is being sought for… Also remember this “ask” will be subject to public (neighbourhood) scrutiny, and the willingness of the companies to spend the huge amounts of money to put in such a network if it is even possible in our terrain …

The following is the latest email that I rec’d from Telus regarding my hounding them for better service. I have only included the first portion as the rest would require his permission:

"Jim
I continue to look for opportunities to get Quadra included in the programs. Over the past few years the transport, xDLS infrastructure, and cell services have upgraded and I have been cyclically inserting requests to the planners of the fibre and cellular build programs. I hope to have some additional details in a few weeks. I’ll get you an update when I get the info back from the planners on my most recent ask.
Cheers,
(Telus Manager)"

And now on to the the news that I have kept you hanging on about!

SRD moves on its strategic priority to improve broadband connectivity in the Region
The SRD has also made a significant application to the Connect to Innovate Program. This is a $500 Million federal funding program aimed at improving broadband connectivity for rural and remote communities. The application put forward by the SRD is for a new subsea fibre-optic network with the potential to benefit many coastal communities within the region and beyond. If successful, this fully-funded ‘back-bone’ infrastructure will deliver high speed broadband to landing points in eligible coastal communities (that would be ( “US” ). Internet service providers can access these ‘points of presence’ to provide improved service to residents, institutions and businesses through local distribution networks. Applications closed on April 20th and funding announcements are expected later this year. We are told that we are on the top of the list and this will allow us to remove ourselves from the Telus network and be on one that is run by the SRD, most likely. The cost will be far less and it will actually be available!

Improvements and upgrades to ‘last-mile’ or local distribution networks owned and operated by ISP’s (Independent Service Providers) are also being contemplated. Through the provincial Strategic Priorities Fund, the SRD will be submitting an application for capital improvement projects nominated by local ISPs. Applications for this program close on June 1st. This will include out local providers and will allow high-speed fibre-optic and cable connectivity to all of our residents. This is what is meant by “last mile”. There is the “backbone” (undersea fibre) and there is the “last mile” (the delivery to your door”).

It is important to note here that the Board came up with three eligible projects for this funding but the funding program only allowed for two projects to be submitted. This is where I had to do my work at the Board table and convince the Board that the two that would be applied for would be for Strathcona Gardens and for Broadband Connectivity. The third project was for a long-standing Area D water project I felt horrible having to deny support to Area D, but we do have to make tough decisions and this was one that I could not let slip by. We “discussed” as a Board at length and when the vote was taken, we won!
So the two applications will go in and provide sufficient money to deal with the “last mile” connections. Phew!

This is so very exciting and brings autonomy to so many communities along the coast and around Vancouver Island. There is so much more that I have to tell you about this but it has not yet been released to the public. As soon as it is I will be free to share it with you. I hope this is all considered good news and you will continue to support my efforts at the Board and Provincial level to improve our service.

Planning Grant for Area C
I also successfully argued for the fine work done by our staff in getting an application in for a planning grant to review the Area C and the Desolation Sound Rural Land Use Bylaw in the next year. This will include a sustainability component and is something that is being included in the most progressive regions. It will help us to develop tools so that we can put all of your good ideas on how to be sustainable into action. Another very exciting development for our area and I have to thank our staff for keeping their eyes open for these grants when they become available. We don’t get much notice nor much time to apply and I hate to lose out on available money when it is offered.

Dog Bylaw update
After my complete rejection of the very expensive bylaw that was brought forward over a year ago, I have been working directly with the owner of the animal control service on Vancouver Island and with the RCMP. After numerous long phone calls, negotiations with SRD staff and an in person meeting with our RCMP I think we are very close to an acceptable bylaw that will meet our needs and not cost us lots of money. I am due to talk to the owner in a few days and will update you further. This has not been a situation of “nothing is happening”, it has been a situation of there is a lot to sort out. It is happening!

Upcoming events, etc.
There will be a Public Hearing for the Tula Foundation (based here on Quadra) for a large foreshore lease for research purposes on May 17th at 7pm at the Quadra Island Community Centre (QICC).

There will also be a Public Hearing for a proposal to sub-divide a portion off of the Golf Course property and create a number of smaller lots to be held at the QICC at 7pm on June 21st.

I will be attending two days of Provincial / First Nations marine planning meetings (MaPP) in Campbell River and another day of Federal marine planning meetings the following day from May 29 - June 1.

The usual Committee and Board meetings will also be on my agenda as well as the Comox Valley Solid Waste meetings and the new committee that I am on dealing with Waste to Energy (an offshoot of that Board) and the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District Board meetings.

I will also be presenting at the Province wide Community to Community Forum which is hosted by the Union of BC Municipalities and the First Nations Summit in Vancouver on June 6th. I was one of the founding members of this forum and all of the Regional Community Community Forums that were spawned by this larger forum. Most First Nations and local governments will be in attendance. Am I nervous? You bet! But what an honour!

Another full month ahead!
I think that is enough to fill your heads for now, so I’ll stop here. Feel free to contact me between the hours of 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, not on weekends or holidays, folks!) at 285-3355, or you can fax me at 285-3533 or you can email me anytime at jimabramxplornet.ca or by mail at Box 278 in the Cove, V0P 1N0… or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JimAbram…. If it is important, my cell is 250-830-8005… Lots of choices.

Please do not use my residential phone number for SRD calls. All business calls should be on 285-3355. Many thanks!

Respectfully submitted,

Jim Abram