OHSWEKEN — First Nations’ Cable operator Jeff Thomas says the fibre optics line running from his head office through to Ohsweken needs to be replaced — and says Aecon-6Nations should be the ones to pay for it.
On January 3, A6N workers accidentally severed the cable for the third time. The service was out for six days, with full services being restored to all customers by January 10.
“That cable has been in the ground for over 15 years. It’s survived pavings, ditches, gas upgrade, Bell upgrade, new hydro poles and we’ve never been hit. These guys have been in here less than a year and they’ve hit it three times in one location within 100 feet of each other,” said Thomas.
A6N previously told TRT the most recent incident was due to incorrect information on a location map given to construction workers installing a water line from the mainline to a local residence.
Thomas says that incorrect information did not come from First Nations Cable, but says A6N was using the wrong map.
In a statement to his customers, Thomas said A6N was using a locate map detailing the corner of Generations Drive and Fourth Line near Highway 6 and not Lawrence Jonathan Drive and Fourth Line where they were digging.
Thomas described the conversation between A6N employees and First Nations Cable technicians at the site. “He then told our tech that he screwed up and it was his fault. He did help us to widen and uncover both ends of the conduit, then left. Our tech evaluated the situation and started to get the materials together to make the repairs,” wrote Thomas.
Thomas says that A6N did not make a request for locates, and says the last time utility locations were requested was a year ago.
A6N previously told TRT they offered to help repair the line but Thomas says that was not the case.
“They’ve never offered us any services. They did help us dig it out but they didn’t acknowledge they had a fibre splicing company that was available to them. I have a splicer here but I am the only one that can splice and I just came off operation so there was no way I can get anything.
It was an expense,” said Thomas.
He is now pursuing an insurance claim for the incident but says the integrity of the line is now at risk because the three separate repair locations make the line susceptible to condensation or other environmental damage. Now, he says, the whole line needs to be replaced.
“My name is everything. I worked very hard. We take a lot of pride in the way we have things. We’re legit. We do everything ourselves,” said Thomas. “To have this come back and somebody is saying bad things about us or trying to turn things around so that we’re the ones that are being blamed for all this stuff — it’s not right and it’s not something we’re prepared to accept.”
“They cut that line three times in the same area. And every time it’s our fault? They are supposed to be professionals, you own up to your mistakes,” said Thomas.
“They’re trying to do too much too fast. They’ve got so many jobs to do and cover so many feet per day.”
Thomas has worked in utilities for the last 40 years — he started First Nations Cable in 1992 and was the very first on-reserve Indigenous-owned cable and internet provider in all of Canada.
Thomas says this is the 28th year they have been in service and says the company has independently grown to offer internet speeds that are 10 times faster than when they first began.
Thomas says he would like to see a greater resolution to the problem and says local utility companies in the community now require a utility board to improve communications.
“I’d like to see all the utility companies meet a few times a year and bring all the new projects in and everyone talks procedures,” said Thomas. “When I worked in Dundas and Stoney Creek I sat on a Utility Board up there it was so much easier everyone knew what everyone else was doing.”
“In other communities, there is a common trench shared by all the utilities: Hydro, Bell, Cable, and Internet are all shared and we have a set location and everyone knows where that location is,” said Thomas.
A6N’s parent company, Six Nations Development Corporation was contacted for comment. They did not respond by press time.