New Killarney Vianet tower will help Manitoulin

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LITTLE CURRENT – A new communications tower constructed in Killarney by internet provider Vianet will have a positive impact on service reliability on Manitoulin, according to MSD Communications CEO Craig Timmermans.

“Vianet is collaborating with with us, installing equipment on our tower,” said Mr. Timmermans. “The equipment will include a microwave link to Killarney, another link will be going to Gore Bay and there will a backup link to the North Shore as well.”

Mr. Timmermans explained that there are only two fibre optic links coming onto Manitoulin Island, one installed by Bell and the other by NetCentral.

“Both of those lines are on the same telephone poles, so if there is an accident, a vehicle hitting a pole or a pole fire, both could be taken out by the same event,” he said. “A variety of things can happen when both of the lines are on the same poles.”

With so many people now working from home, including on Manitoulin Island, the current capacity is being strained, continued Mr. Timmermans. “I am running pretty hot installing new commercial customers,” he said. “A lot of people are seeing speeds that are slower than dial-up from their current providers.”

“Things were improving slightly before COVID hit,” he said. “But then COVID did hit and it has been steadily downhill since then.”

The new connections and backup links will vastly improve both connectivity and reliability for Island customers, said Mr. Timmermans. “When you are trying to operate a business, especially with so much happening online these days, you can’t afford to be slow, let alone down for any length of time.”

In recent federal government funding announcements, Vianet received $576,000 to connect 176 households in the Killarney region, while Bell received $195,000 to connect 482 households in Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation. The funding came from the federal government’s rapid response stream of the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund. In making the announcements, Nipissing-Timiskaming Liberal MP Anthony Rota, speaking on behalf of Maryam Monsef, Canada’s minister for women and gender equality and rural economic development, said the pandemic has shown the effects of not having access to reliable internet, adding that broadband is an essential service “that we have to bring to all communities, regardless of where they’re located.”

The $1.75-billion Universal Broadband Fund is targeted at connecting 98 percent of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026, with an end-goal of having the entire country connected by 2030.

The Universal Broadband Fund has $150 million in its coffers for a rapid response stream providing an accelerated application process to allow for shovel-ready projects to get immediately underway.