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Fibre optic phone lines to Whistler Sympatico program not part of the package By Paul Andrew An outdated and over capacity digital microwave telephone line connecting Whistler to Vancouver and the rest of the free world will soon be upgraded to a state-of-the-art, fibre optic cable, letting Whistlerites conduct personal calls and business transactions on a faster and more reliable communications channel. Dale Reid, in charge of network implementation and planning for Telus, along with Dough Strachan, media relations manager for BC Tel, discussed changes to the state of communications in the corridor Tuesday during a conference call from Alberta and Vancouver. "The only major change is the fibre optic network between Whistler and Vancouver this fall," Reid said. "The present system is digital microwave and it’s been in place for 15 years. We now see the need to expand for broad band data systems and internet video conferences — especially for the larger corporations in Whistler. But everyone will benefit." Reid said the digital line will eliminate the "long distance network congestion" created between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday in Whistler, caused mainly by the large number of callers signing up for the BC Tel No Limits Long Distance calling plan. "The fibre optics will virtually reduce 99 per cent of that congestion," Reid said. "And there will be no added charge to monthly bills for Whistler residents once the new line comes in." Although BC Tel’s popular Sympatico internet system is not part of the package for Whistler until at least sometime next year, Reid said the present internet providers in the valley will benefit from the fibre optics because they all use BC Tel’s existing equipment. Strachan added that the number of internet users in any area served by BC Tel is a key factor regarding Sympatico’s implementation, and there are not enough users in Whistler to justify the program. Other points raised during the meeting were the unlikelihood of a local line between Whistler and Pemberton. At the moment, 19.5 per cent of Whistler customers call Pemberton in a given month, and the CRTC (Canadian Radio television and Telecommunications Commission), requires a "threshold" of 60 per cent to localise any area. In addition, the rate would increase by $3 per month for all Whistler residents. The Vancouver-Whistler fibre optic transmission system, which will be up and running sometime this fall, is a $6.5 million project in addition to the $2.6 million the company plans to spend this year on access cable and switching equipment in the Whistler area. "The most important thing about this fibre optic network is its global potential," Reid said. "If you can go to one company that connects you to London rather than having to switch through three or four companies then it speeds up the service and upgrades the global connectivity."