Whistler and Pemberton get on the ‘Net in a big way By Paul Andrew In an abrupt about-face to its plans for Whistler, BC Tel/Telus announced Friday, May 14 that its popular Sympatico Internet service is now available to customers in the Whistler Valley and up the corridor to Pemberton. Doug Strachan, media relations manager for BC Tel, told the Pique in a previous interview that Sympatico wasn’t in the immediate future for Whistler, despite the fact BC Tel/Telus is installing a new, fibre-optic telephone line in the fall. The line will speed up connections for Whistler and Pemberton callers to Vancouver and improve world-wide communications. But Sympatico, which has been available to numerous B.C. communities since its introduction in February 1996, was not included as a service with the fibre optics. "I didn’t know either when I talked to you last week," Strachan said, regarding the Pique’s May 14 story. "It’s a little unusual, this process. The person who’s in charge of promoting BC Tel Interactive/Sympatico simply wrote the press release themselves and even I was in the dark about it." Strachan says the Interactive division of BC Tel is "unregulated" by the company, and it does not necessarily communicate with others when it designates a community for the Sympatico service. Strachan says it is not necessarily the number of present Internet users in a given area, it also depends on the potential number of users, and to a certain degree, the convenience that are all factors for the Internet service. Many Sympatico users in Vancouver and other parts of B.C. who use Sympatico could not use it while they were staying at their second homes in Whistler. Some 110,000 customers in 25 communities throughout the province use the system. However, 89 per cent of British Columbian’s have access to the Internet. "It’s a number of things that brings Sympatico to Whistler," Strachan said. "It’s eventually going to be everywhere in B.C. and it was just Whistler’s time." At least two monthly service packages are available from BC Tel Sympatico which enable "surfers" who use the web frequently and occasional users to both benefit from the service. The system includes two megabytes of storage to develop a personal Web-site. E-mail and multiple e-mail addresses are also available, with technical support being offered on a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year basis. The service charges appear on a regular phone bill.