Pressure mounts for internet connection in rural N.S.
800 residents still waiting
A new committee in the Annapolis Valley is urging the provincial government to take internet service providers to task for stranding many rural Nova Scotians without access to high speed.
EastLink, Seaside Communications and OmniGlobe Networks were awarded contracts in 2007. The federal and provincial governments invested $35 million, while Seaside and EastLink put up another $40 million.
The government's Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia initiative aimed to have everyone in the province online by the end of 2009.
Betty Lutz said she's never had a reliable connection to the internet. She's not alone — an estimated 800 Nova Scotians are still offline.
"All I want is for it to work. If you can't make it work I just want you to tell me," said Lutz.
Kings County MLA Leo Glavine said he doesn't have a connection at his home in North Kingston.
"It is time now for this committee to meet with the minister, the deputy minister, bring EastLink and Seaside, bring these providers together and hear definitely, 'what is your plan?'" said the MLA.
Michael Innis, head of the newly formed Public Committee for High-speed Internet Access, said the group is collecting impact statements from anyone without a high-speed connection and plans to present them to the minister early in the new year.
"There are hills and mountains and a specific topography to deal with and if that was not addressed in the original proposal then that was a flawed bid," he said.
Percy Paris, the minister of economic and rural development, said when the then-governing Progressive Conservative party began the program, they underestimated the job.
"I think in everybody's eagerness… they didn't realize and recognize how expensive and how time-consuming this build was really going to be," he said Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank MLA.
EastLink said they have provided 7,500 rural Nova Scotians with broadband and are still looking for solutions for the others.
"EastLink engaged in this project in good faith," said Jill Laing, spokeswoman for EastLink in an email.
"This is the first time any jurisdiction in Canada has attempted to provide this kind of coverage using this technology, and it has been more challenging and more costly than anyone could have imagined. Other jurisdictions use a combination of technologies.
She said the company has invested $30 million of its own money in the project — four times what was originally estimated.