Three years ago, Arrow Park residents got a boost when Bill Mitchell hooked their local network up with the Burton Internet Society’s service.
“We were using the same equipment,” Mitchell said, and with some funding from the Columbia Basin Trust, residents were able to connect up with the Burton system thanks to a tower system on the other side of the lake run on remote power, and a repeater.
The Burton Internet Society (BIS) service, which now includes Arrow Park, will also soon provide households on the south side of Caribou Creek with their own window into the Internet world.
Not only that, the entire BIS system will be upgraded with solar power as well as back-up generators.
“Last year we got $50,000 to expand and upgrade our system,” Rosalie Cranna, the BIS president told me, “What we’re planning on doing is upgrading all of our sites so they have solar power with a generator for back up so when solar dies in the middle of winter ‘cause we don’t get enough sun.”
Smart. Our conversation was making me wonder where I could find my own back up system for the times of year that the valley sun may not be up to the challenge of providing enough solar power to generate vitamin D.
“We’ve had a lot of help from Bill Mitchell down in Arrow Park supervising that end of it,” said Cranna.
“I think he’s happy we’re upgrading so he doesn’t have to ski in to the other site to see why the power isn’t working,” she chuckled.
With the new system, the remote power should be covered for the winter, making the network more stable.
“On the 29th, the new [towers] went up on Marshall mountain,” Cranna outlined, detailing as well a couple of the hiccups that occurred along the way.
“When they shipped the tower, they didn’t ship the attachment kits for putting the radios on the tower. We’re waiting for those to arrive.”
Waiting isn’t new to Cranna as president of the Burton Internet Society, who is used to practising patience.
“Last fall we applied for the Crown application and it didn’t come through until the beginning of August.”
As soon as the application was approved, the Society got to work getting equipment in place as quickly as possible before the good weather turned.
Integrated Power Systems in Kelowna is providing the solar and generator equipment, but they are also waiting on parts to arrive.
Once the expansion part of the project is completed, ten to fifteen people across Caribou Creek may be enjoying Internet at some point in October, depending on the delivery of parts to Kelowna, but they may have to do some minor logging to catch the wireless signal.
Trees standing in the way of the signal can be a major barrier to transmission, and there are some people who have had to fall a tree or two for access to the Internet.
Cranna’s plans for expansion are modest. Once the families across the creek are hooked up, she’s planning on taking a break.
“At the last meeting people asked: ‘So what are your plans for expansion?’” to which Cranna’s reply was, “None.”
“We’ve got 85 customers now, so if we get fifteen more we’ll be good,” she said, satisfied that the community’s coverage is adequate for what it is needed for at the moment.
“I know that there are quite a few people that use [the Internet] as part of their business,” Cranna said, although the number whose businesses were completely dependent on it were few, she thought. The BIS charge for their service reflects this by charging a single flat fee that doesn’t distinguish between commercial and private usage.
Nevertheless, usage has been going up “because a lot people have discovered things like Netflix,” Cranna said.
People are encouraged to monitor their usage. If they don’t, Okanagan.net, the Internet provider, is likely to shut the door to the virtual world on their mouse-wielding fingers.
“If you get over 30 Gigs a month, then they can shut you down if you don’t take a gentle warning,” Cranna warned, but the situation is rare, she said as most people tend to stay below the cut off.
If the snow this year is like last, watching online movies for a couple of hours may be way more attractive than shovelling snow for a couple of hours. Just remember to watch your bandwidth.