The CCCS is used to dealing with extreme situations, but wildfires have posed additional challenges (CCCS photo)

CCCS faces challenges in wildfire; works to improve local communications

The CCCS has made a number of changes to the local network to improve in-Valley communication

The CCCS has made a number of changes to the local network to improve Valley communication in the event of an emergency.

Many community members were alarmed by a recent announcement last week that damage sustained to the fibre infrastructure in Riske Creek could result in a communications “blackout” locally. Internet, cell phone, and long-distance calling services are all delivered through Telus’s infrastructure, with CCCS being the main internet provider for the Valley.

During a regular day the CCCS faces a number of various challenges related to the topography, terrain, and isolation of the Valley. Typically their greatest challenges are in the winter, when their mountain sites get buried in snow, their solar panels become encased in ice, and generally harsh weather makes service trips difficult.

This summer has brought a different scenario. Raging wildfires across the Chilcotin Plateau have severely compromised Telus’s ability to fix the system should it be damaged.

“We rely on Telus as our backhaul carrier; they transport data to and from the valley, connecting us across the plateau to the wider world. The failure of this relay at any link would be instant lights-out for us,” said CCCS staff. “Telus is pretty good at fixing stuff, but with the fire situation still quite volatile and likely to complicate repairs, there’s a real potential for us to go offline with no notice, and stay down for a while. And it’s not just internet; our cell data is transported on that same route.”

The potential for an emergency situation led to the creation of a portal for in-Valley communication that would remain active should Telus’s network become too compromised to provide service or inaccessible to fix for a given period of time.

“One measure we’ve taken is the creation of an in-Valley messaging system; it’s a standards-based chat system much like Google-hangouts or Skype, although it’s text-only for now,” said CCCS staff. “We host it locally on our own server, so it will work even if we get disconnected from the wider world. Anyone who wants a personal account can have one, and we’ve also setup a public chatroom on our website (http://belco.bc.ca/chat) that allows anonymous participation – the idea is to make it as easy and quick as possible to get and give information. Anyone with WIFI in the valley can use it to communicate.”

For more information on the CCCS and the services they provide, give them a call on their toll-free number 1-844-982-0094, find them on Facebook, through their website www.belco.bc.ca, or email them at cccsbellacoola@gmail.com