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Pemberton residents' Internet frustration continues

No plans for community-wide fibre, but residents can express interest online



While the Government of Canada declared broadband Internet access a basic service for all Canadians in late December — with an ambitious speed target of 50 Mbps — many people in Pemberton would be happy if they could just watch Netflix.

"The joke is you get better Internet in prison," said Robert Szachury.

"We had Netflix for awhile, and (my family) would be watching something and then you just watch that little circle spin around. We just stopped. You can't use it."

Szachury has accounts with both Shaw and Telus, and said numerous calls and emails to both companies have done nothing to solve the problem.

"If you're paying for a commodity and you're not getting it you should get a reduced rate, or you should get a break, and we're limping our Internet capability along," he said.

"We basically know what we've got, we know its limitations and we work around it, because obviously, I mean, how many hours can you spend complaining?"

The lagging speeds have had a negative effect on businesses as well.

"I hate it. I hate it so much," said photographer Amie Le Blanc, who owns Le Blanc Studio.

Le Blanc said her Internet continually cuts out as she's trying to upload photos for clients.

"It's super annoying, because then I look incompetent. People who pay thousands of dollars for their wedding photos and they can't download them? That's very bad," she said.

Le Blanc said she's resorted to using the Internet at the Pemberton Hotel to upload photos.

"I think it would be really nice for them to admit that there's this much of a problem, instead of just being like, 'oh well, we'll look into it,'" she said. "It's been what, two years now that this has been happening? And you just sort of have to go through the hoops each time to complain about it individually as though you're the only one that this is happening to, when there's obviously a greater problem."

Computer programmer Dave Achtemichuk said he once worked in a rural town in China that had faster Internet than Pemberton.

Achtemichuk said he bought a high-speed Internet package from Telus, but when he moved into his residence in Pemberton Meadows he found his speed was a fifth of what was advertised.

"I called into them they're like 'Oh, well at peak times, sometimes it can be slower,' and I'm like, 'No, no, this is something different," he said. "It's aging infrastructure."

Telus eventually offered Achetmichuk half price on his Internet, saying they had plans to address their infrastructure in the spring.

"I don't expect it to be done by then, and I'll have to call and get the deal again," he said.

Pinpointing exactly why the service is so slow at times is difficult.

"We are aware of the challenges some of our customers in the region have been facing, and are continuing to work on short and long-term technical solutions to best meet the needs of members of the Pemberton community. We will continue to monitor and provide updates on," reads an emailed statement from Shaw spokesperson Chethan Lakshman.

Followup questions about infrastructure, deals for customers and what the long-term solutions might be were not answered before Pique's deadline.

A representative from Telus said the company is not aware of widespread service concerns in the area, but customers can reach out by phone (310-2255, no area code needed), online or by Twitter @TELUSsupport if they're having problems.

David MacKenzie, owner of the Pemberton Valley Lodge, eventually had enough of the poor Internet service at his hotel, and worked with Telus to upgrade to a fibre-optic connection.

The hospitality industry used to be about selling two things: A bed and a hot shower.

"But there's a third one that's certainly entered the equation over the last few years, and that's Internet, and I find that our hotel guests, they want Internet over the bed and the hot shower now, so it's kind of like priority one," MacKenzie said.

After two years of back and forth with Telus, the fibre optic was extended to his building last fall.

The infrastructure upgrade wasn't cheap, and taken with other recent expense increases like power and wages will affect rates at the hotel, but "I'm willing to pay a little bit more each month to provide a great service experience to our guests," MacKenzie said.

"That's just the cost of doing business."

With the fibre-optic upgrade, the lodge is now able to handle multiple Internet users in each of its 85 suites, even when fully occupied as it was over Christmas.

"The nice thing that I can say now is we're able to handle that amount of traffic," MacKenzie said.

The Pemberton Valley Lodge's fibre installation is an option available to most businesses, and is different from other fibre builds across the province, said Telus spokesperson Liz Sauvé.

Since 2013, Telus has invested billions to bring fibre to communities across Canada at no cost to homeowners, Sauvé said.

"While we don't have any news to share about Pemberton at this time, we review our plans to bring Telus PureFibre to communities across B.C. every year, and plan to expand our network to more communities in the near future. Things like local demand, population density, and community support certainly factor into our decisions. If and when we have exciting news for Pemberton, the community will be the first to hear," she said.

Pemberton residents can register their interest in fibre Internet at

MLA Jordan Sturdy, also a Pemberton resident, said the BC government has set a target of getting 98 per cent of people in the province high-speed Internet access to a minimum of five Mbps.

"But the problem for us is that we have a big province that is a pretty bony place... we have challenging terrain," Sturdy said, adding that his focus has been on connecting areas in the riding that didn't have Internet at all, like the Pemberton industrial park or Poole Creeke, which will get high-speed Internet access for the first time thanks in part to a $133,000 provincial government investment in independent telecom provider Base Technology, Ltd.

There is a fibre optic line running through Pemberton, installed in advance of the 2010 Olympics, but expanding off of it isn't cheap, Sturdy said.

"It's just natural that as you get into more rural parts of B.C. it becomes much more costly to provide those services," he said.

"When we start looking at where I live, once you get past the Plateau there is sort of one residence every 500 metres, right? And that gets to be pricey, so you have to have a business case to make it work."