It’s the bane of the Revelstoke Internet user — trying to watch a YouTube in the evening. Speaking as a Revelstoke Cable subscriber, I know it’s next to impossible. For some reason related to streaming technology, Netflix works fine.
An unscientific survey of my Facebook friends produced mixed reviews for Telus, with one person saying it was “so much better”, another calling it “hit and miss” and another writing “Telus is poo’s.”
Our ability to watch streaming video is one that can be easily classified as a “First World Problem” but in a world that is constantly moving online, the overloaded Internet infrastructure in Revelstoke does have an impact. It can slow down business and hurts the community’s ability to attract skilled IT workers.
The issue of slow Internet in Revelstoke isn’t a new one. I wrote about it two years ago and at the time a Telus spokesperson told me they were installing new technology that “is going to meet that growing demand for some time to come.”
So what happened? Turns out, demand is growing really fast — the amount of bandwidth Canadians use is skyrocketing. According to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, Canadians spent more than 45 hours per month online in 2013. Liz Sauve, a spokesperson for Telus, said the amount of data Canadians access onlin doubles every 18–24 months.
“What that means is the upgrades that we made in the last few years, while they were addressing capacity demands at that time and making siginificant improvements, as we continue forward we’re looking at how we meet that continually growing demand,” she said.
Internet comes to Revelstoke through Telus’s broadband line. The maximum speed available to Revelstoke customers is six megabits per second (Mbps), which, according to Netflix, should allow for HD streaming at 720p quality. YouTube tells me I should be able to stream at 360p, but often that isn’t even possible.
(For comparison’s sake, the maximum speed Telus offers throughout their network is 100 mbps.)
The issue is the network in Revelstoke doesn’t have the capacity to meet the demand in winter when powder hounds flock to Revelstoke.
“We do recognize there’s a growing demand for high speed Internet service in Revelstoke, especially in the winter months from the influx of tourists,” said Sauve.
She said upgrades were in the works, but details wouldn’t be announced until the spring. I was unable to speak to the area manager for a more detailed explanation of our Internet issues.
Meanwhile, Revelstoke Cable, which piggybacks off of Telus’ broadband pipe, is also upgrading their system.
“There is an immediate project underway to upgrade our backhaul from our partner Telus, who delivers the Internet to Revelstoke,” said Tracy Buckley, the new manager of Revelstoke Cable. “The result of that will help the congestion that we’re seeing right now.”
The backhaul is what connects the Revelstoke Cable network to the main Telus pipe. Work is also underway to upgrade the network leading out to homes and businesses.
“We want to build out the system so we can support that winter influx, especially that high-congested time in the evening,” said Buckley.
The improved backhaul is expected to relieve the congestion customers experience.
“The biggest thing we’re waiting on is that Trans-Canada pipeline that comes by Revelstoek,” she said. “If we are able to get better capacity from that and our system that goes out to the houses are in good shape, that will all add together to provide better capacity in the evening.”
The other possibility for improving broadband is tapping into the new pipe that leads into city hall, the community centre and the Revelstoke Credit Union. Dawn Levesque, the corporate services executive for the City of Revelstoke, said the extra capacity has made a difference for the city.
“We can run more and bigger programs with more ease,” she said.
She said there were no plans to allow other businesses to tap into the pipe. “If they look at that it will be done at the council table,” she said.
Alan Mason, the city’s director of economic development, said he is looking to establish a task force to look at solutions to Revelstoke’s Internet issues.
“There’s a need to improve access so the economic committee of council was recommending we set up a task force to work with the different businesses that are delivering services,” he said.