Houseboat fleet offers solar-powered broadband

Tourists cruising B.C.’s Shuswap Lake this summer will have another diversion to keep them away from the office. High-speed Internet access, via four transmitter towers, is coming to the 81-strong houseboat fleet of Waterway Houseboats, which operate on the popular lake.

The service will be up and running by the middle of May, according to Robin Campbell, the general manager of All Points Wireless, based in Salmon Arm, B.C.

Campbell said that the four solar-powered transmitter sites will be ready by the beginning of this year’s main season, which runs from May 15 to Oct. 15.

One consequence of the service is that many vacationers will be able to extend their trips on the lake, he said.

“They find that they can stay longer,” Campbell said. “By having access, they can e-mail the office, do what they need to do and be done with it for the day, and it gives them an extended vacation, in some cases.”

As well as building the system, All Points will be responsible for bandwidth management, maintaining customer accessibility and troubleshooting, if required.

“We’re here to back up the system, to make sure it runs uninterrupted,” Campbell said.

The speed will be comparable to that of cable, he added.

Though the service will not cover the entire 290 sq.-km. lake, it will be available at the most “user-friendly” and popular areas, such as Sicamous Narrows and Seymour Arm, where public beaches and docks are accessible.

Even without the high-speed internet access, house-boating vacationers need not rough it on the lake, which has an estimated 1,000 miles of lakefront.

Some Waterway houseboats are equipped with wet bars, hot tubs, water slides, wide screen TVs, barbecues, fireplaces, elevators and boardrooms.

Waterway Houseboats spokesman Martin Prihoda said the high-speed service is partly aimed at boosting the number of corporate clients.

“The corporate clientele is a big part of our market,” Prihoda said. “We’re looking to increase that market share.”

Companies could hold corporate retreats on the boats, which can accommodate up to 22 people. Thanks to high-speed Internet, videoconferencing will be possible in the vessels’ boardrooms.

“But it’s also for the family or college kids that come out and may be want to check their e-mail, and maybe download a movie,” he said.

The cost will be $15.95, plus tax, per day, for unlimited high-speed access.

Waterway also plans to rent laptops, at $49.95, plus tax, per day.

They will be plug and play, Prihoda said: “No set up required.”

A new houseboat is being especially set up for corporate clients, complete with boardroom.

The high-speed service will be available only on Waterway boats, he said.

It is thought to be the first high-speed service available on any lake in the world.

Houseboat rentals start at $1,195 for four mid-week days, during the spring, on a 10-person boat.

At the other end of the range is the Genesis 75, which sleeps 20 people. The boat’s eight staterooms are equipped with king or queen size beds. It has satellite TV, a dishwasher, a wine rack, and third-level observation deck.

A week on the Genesis 75 in the peak summer season will set you back $9,495, plus tax.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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