Grand Manan – Crave Technologies, based on Grand Manan, was founded as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in 2006, incorporating as Crave Technologies in 2009 with the express purpose of bringing high speed internet to communities that are under serviced by larger ISP’s. Last week, Crave announced they have reached an agreement with NB Power which would allow them to expand their capacity to over 2500 homes on Grand Manan, Campobello, and Deer Island.
For the last two years the company has been building out a small fiber network on Grand Manan called Proximity Fiber. Phase one of that project saw fiber to the home being deployed in one community in North Head.
Crave chief operating officer, Don Leclair, says while they have been busy with phase two, which has expanded the network to other communities on Grand Manan, “Our big news is the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NB Power.”
The MOU, which Crave signed near the beginning of June, gives the company access to the dark fiber optic cable in the undersea power cables which NB Power began laying last year. When NB Power set out to replace the aging undersea cables which bring power to the Fundy Isles they included fiber optic cables in the bundle of cables that were laid on the seafloor, though no plan was made public about who would be given access to them.
Since NB Power announced their intention to include unused fiber optic cable in the undersea cables, Crave Technology CEO Howard Small has been working on getting access to it in order to expand the capacity of Proximity Fiber.
Crave Technologies began operations as a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP), which uses equipment operating in public spectrum radio frequencies to distribute internet service to their customers. This “last mile” of a customer’s internet connection is considered to be one of the most expensive portions of the network, and smaller communities are usually ignored by incumbent ISP’s in favour of more dense – and profitable – areas.
Currently, the fiber network on the island still operates as a WISP. The internet signal is sent via radio tower from the mainland to a receiver in North Head where it is distributed via fiber optic. Once the new undersea cable is live, that line will replace the radio link to the mainland and will allow the company to offer significantly higher speeds.
Crave Technologies has filed an application under the CRTC Broadband Fund which would allow them to build out the network on other islands. Small says that funding decisions are made slowly, and that if everything goes perfectly he expects they could start construction by the summer of 2021.
The CRTC Broadband Fund is part of the government of Canada’s plan to provide high speed internet to every home in Canada, closing the “remote/rural and urban divide”. The CRTC Broadband Fund is a $750 million fund designed to “…help provide all Canadians with access to broadband Internet and mobile wireless services”.
With the potential for a customer base of 2500 across the Fundy Isles, the focus on customer service in the ISP business becomes evident. The advantage of a local ISP is that if you have an issue with the service it’s not a call center in another part of the world that you’re calling to ask for help – it’s people who live in your own community.
“We really strongly believe in buying local, hiring local, and serving local,” says Small. “My passion lies in helping communities that nobody else seems to want to help, or are able to help.”
Delivering internet access isn’t necessarily the most glamorous work, but in these days of remote working and online services the need for robust and equal internet access is clearer than ever.