Charlevoix businesses eager to get high-speed internet, at last, thanks to G7 Summit

Business owners in the Charlevoix region are welcoming news they will have soon be getting high-speed internet, as organizer of the June G7 Summit step up the pace to get installations ready in La Malbaie.

'We're going to jump on the bandwagon while we can,' says La Malbaie restaurauteur of June's media circus

Johanne Côté, the executive director of Charlevoix's Chamber of Commerce, said she doesn't yet know who exactly will benefit from the fibre optic cables being installed in the region for the G7. Local businesses have been begging for high-speed internet for years. (Radio-Canada)

People living in Quebec's picturesque Charlevoix region northeast of Quebec City will see at least one lasting benefit of the G7 Summit the region's hosting in June: the arrival of reliable high-speed internet service.

"It will probably be the most important legacy of the G7," said Johanne Côté, the executive director of Charlevoix's Chamber of Commerce.

The installation of broadband internet can no longer be avoided, with media outlets from around the world arriving at the Manoir de Charlevoix on June 8 and 9 to report on the annual meeting of representatives of the world's seven largest advanced economies.

Patrice Bergeron works in La Maison du Bootlegger, one of La Malbaie's many restaurants and bars which expect to be flooded by visitors in June.

He said he welcomes the improvement, but he questions why the needs of locals weren't deemed important enough to warrant this type of investment before now.
La Malbaie resident Patrice Bergeron said high-speed Internet will allow people in the region to do what urban Quebecers take for granted, such as streaming movies. (Radio-Canada)

"The only thing I deplore is that it took a big event like this, which will only last two days, to get things moving," he said.

Bergeron said he does see the silver lining, however. 

"We're going to jump on the bandwagon while we can," he said.

'We seem archaic'

For business owners in the region, the lack of access to video-conferencing and frequent service interruptions are daily obstacles to doing business.

Robert Gagnon is the engineering manager at Fibrotek, a company that manufactures high-speed machining and aerospace tooling in Clermont, a town a few kilometres northwest of La Malbaie.

Gagnon said at times it can take several hours to send large files.

"I have the impression that sometimes it makes us look bad," he said.
Robert Gagnon, engineering manager at Fibrotek in Clermont, near La Malbaie, said it can sometimes take hours to send large files without high-speed internet. (Radio-Canada)

Gagnon said he hopes the installation of fibre optic cables won't stop short of Clermont's industrial park.

The company's owner, Luc Tremblay, said he's been pressuring officials to provide higher quality internet service to Clermont for years, and he hopes the time has come.

"We ship to the United States and to Mexico, and we seem archaic in comparison," he said.

The Chamber of Commerce, which is helping to organize the summit, couldn't say exactly which areas will be covered.

Telecommunications giant Bell told CBC it cannot disclose any details on its contracts with its clients.

A Bell spokesperson wrote in an e-mail that the company is still in the planning phase of the region's network upgrade being planned for the summit.

​Cellular reception gets boost, too

Ottawa has already announced a $15-million investment in January to install cellphone towers across the Charlevoix region.

Côté said this will bridge some of the gaps in service in the region. Not only are these black-out zones a security issue for travellers, she said, they are also problematic for business owners.

"This will bring us into 2018," she said.
The federal and provincial government teamed up in November 2017 to announce a $290-million investment to bring high-speed access to 360 towns and villages in Quebec. (Radio-Canada)

Côté said with an ageing population, it is important for the region to have reliable telecommunications services, to attract young families and new businesses.

​Côté said summit will put Charlevoix in the international spotlight, just as the 2017 G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily did for that city.

She said the beauty of Charlevoix's natural landscapes will also surely attract visitors to the region.

"It will allow us to open a door to the world," she said.
G7 leaders witness the Italian Aeronautica Militare (Frecce Tricolori) flypast as they take part in the G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy on Friday, May 26, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

With files from Radio-Canada's Cathy Senay