British Columbia

Chinese tech company Huawei bringing faster internet to rural B.C., officials deny security concerns

The controversial company at the centre of a diplomatic dispute between Canada and China is also a major player in a project to bring faster internet to rural B.C., even though some fear public perceptions may the hinder the initiative.

Local internet provider says the technology does not pose a security risk and is federally reviewed

Internet service provider ABC Communications is looking to improve broadband connection in rural B.C. to homes and businesses. It says the technology supplied by Chinese tech giant Huawei won't be used for the mobile network. (iStock)

The controversial company at the centre of a diplomatic dispute between Canada and China is also a major player in a project to bring faster internet to rural B.C., even though some fear public perceptions may the hinder the initiative.

The Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei, is working with local internet service provider ABC Communications on a pilot project to increase broadband speed, starting with the small community of Lac La Hache in the Cariboo region.

"This opportunity they've managed with Huawei is phenomenal and just unheard of in rural British Columbia," said Al Richmond, an elected representative with the Cariboo Regional District.

Internet access has been an ongoing issue for the region for more than a decade, he said. During the 2017 wildfires, some residents struggled to access vital information from the district.

The goal is to increase internet speed to 100 megabits per second, roughly four times what it currently is.

That would put Lac La Hache on par with places like Prince George, ABC Communications CEO Bob Allen.

The Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei, is under international scrutiny for allegations of spying. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

Concerns about access to equipment

But Huawei, which would provide the technology, is under scrutiny over allegations of spying. 

Some security experts are urging Canada, and other countries, not to use Huawei technology to create 5G networks because of potential security risks.

Allen disagreed about the potential security risk using Huawei equipment in this case but expressed concern about public perception.

"[We] and other major telecoms are very concerned that these international discussions will affect our supply chain and our access to global state-of-the-art equipment," Allen said.

Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei, is wanted by the United States for allegedly contravening U.S. trade sanctions against Iran and was arrested in Vancouver in December. (fensifuwu.com)

Security reviews

ABC Communications is looking to speed up fixed internet access, rather than mobile, and works the 4G network rather than 5G, so this project falls outside the security warnings, Allen said.

Huawei infrastructure also forms a part of Bell Canada and Telus's 4G cell network.

"The products that we use in Canada are thoroughly reviewed by the Canadian government before we're allowed to use them," he told Carolyna de Ryk, host of CBC's Daybreak North.

"The security practices of the Canadian government will ensure that these networks are very secure."

The technology goes through an "extra special level of security," he said, and the benefits far outweigh potential risks.

He said Huawei has been supplying technology to them for the last five years and the two companies have a good working relationship.

"We like to choose our products based on reliability, price and technical performance," he said.

"We don't have another option for this grade of service, nor could we switch to a different product supplier and achieve the same results."

With files from Andrew Kurjata and Daybreak North

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