Pelee Island

Over the Lake: Pelee Island — The Digital Desert In Your Backyard

While unplugging may be part of what makes Pelee Island a real escape for visitors, lack of internet and, somedays, cell service leaves residents and business owners woefully behind in a digitally connected world.

Most find short-term solutions through unlimited data plans but those plans can be costly, deliver throttled-down speeds after 20G or 30G, and provide intermittent signal availability, especially on humid days.  (Yes! On humid days cell service on Pelee Island is affected. We’ll get to that later.)

On July 29, The Province of Ontario announced that it would be partnering with the federal government to jointly provide over 1.2 billion dollars to multiple projects across the province  to bring high speed internet to every community by 2025.

Pelee Island is one of those communities.

The details were confirmed today with an announcement made by Windsor–Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk. Kusmierczyk stated that reliable internet connectivity isn’t a luxury, it’s a lifeline, and credits a huge team effort across party lines on this epic achievement.

On March 1, 2021, The Township of Pelee Island, with support from Gosfield North Communications, submitted an application for funding to the federal Universal Broadband Fund and provincial ICON Program.

The total ask to connect Pelee Island to Kingsville via submarine fibre optic line is valued at $23.5m with contributions from Gosfield North ($2.5m), The Universal Broadband Fund ($15.75m), and ICON Fund ($5.25m). Nearly $20 million has been awarded specifically to connect every house and business on Pelee Island.

The funding request is significant in that it is entirely funded outside of the municipal  level. The project is planned to take two years from start to completion pending any unexpected delays.

Robert Petruk, Chief Executive and Technology Officer for Gosfield North Communications Cooperative, says that connecting Pelee Island aligns with what their core business has been.

“Gosfield North Communications Cooperative has a rich history of doing what it takes to connect the most rural and remote of communities. With the support of the Universal Broadband Fund and the ICON program, we have the opportunity to continue this tradition by finally providing much needed connectivity services to Pelee Island which will empower the Island to capitalize on its economic potential while ensuring residents have access to resources this modern era demands.”

Lack of reliable internet and reliable cell service are more than mere inconvenience to islanders. The inability to make emergency calls some days, to access remote learning from home, reliably connect to or host zoom calls, even perform basic online banking and merchant payments, can present uncommon challenges that are often difficult for visitors  and city folk to imagine.

On humid days a thing called Propagation Delay Effect means cell signal is nonexistent on certain parts of the island due to the water vapour in the air. The signal takes longer to transmit to and from cell towers and would show on your phone as decreased reception, no reception at all, or intermittent reception.

Yes. This can mean no internet or cell service when it’s humid.

Noah Campbell, director of Government Relations and Community Innovation for Touchless, Inc. will be supporting the Gosfield North team and says that accessible communities start with connectivity.

“We applaud the governments of Canada and Ontario for investing in this historic project with Pelee Island and giving residents access to the connectivity services that will transform the island into a hub for research, innovation, commerce and tourism and make it an ideal and sustainable place to live work and play.”

The project provides for a network of services that include connecting over 750 locations with high speed access via fibre, or point to point connection where fibre is not possible, through a combination of services.

It is estimated that at least six full-time positions will be created on Pelee Island through a new entity that will provide internet service (ISP) jointly operated by The Township of Pelee Island with Gosfield North as the carrier. Up to 100 contract positions will be created through the duration of the project.

Sue Rice lives on Pelee Island year round and operates her own business remotely through a series of solutions that often are unreliable and costly. She says, “Lack of Internet connectivity or paying exorbitant fees without limits should not be challenges businesses should be facing in this age of virtual workplaces.”

As islanders that came generations before recall when the hydroline was installed under Lake Erie in 1955 connecting the island to the grid, Islanders today will recount the era of connecting the island to the world and to the possibilities greater connection brings.

To learn more follow live links through article.

Written by Cathy Miller with contribution from Noah Campbell, Government Relations and Community Innovation for Touchless Inc.

For further reading:

Universal Broadband Fund
Ontario connects: bringing high-speed internet to every community


Cathy + Kevin Miller
The Wandering Dog Inn

One Comment

  1. Any updates on Pelee broadband as of July 1 2022

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