New Brunswick

Rural New Brunswickers welcome promise of faster internet

The CRTC has set new targets for rural internet access in Canada and for some New Brunswickers the new speeds can’t come soon enough.

CRTC's target speed of 50mbps is more than 100 times the speed of 0.45mbps clocked on Grand Manan

The CRTC has set a target for 90 per cent of Canadian homes and small buisnesses to have internet with a download speed of 50mbps with an unlimited data option. (iStock)

The CRTC has set new targets for rural internet access in Canada and for some New Brunswickers the new speeds can't come soon enough.

The CRTC has set a target of 2021 to have internet with speeds of 50 megabits per second, with an unlimited data option, available to 90 per cent of Canadian homes and small businesses. They have also declared broadband internet access a basic service.

Paula Green owns a vinyl graphic design company called McDecals on Grand Manan and is one of the few on the island to have internet access. Although she has it, the spotty service has made it difficult for her business.

"Because of my set up my machine is required to have internet for it to work," she said. "So I have to have internet plugged into that machine and I have to be able to use my laptop wirelessly to communicate with it."

"Once more people start drawing on it, it just does not work."

That has caused Green, who said her download speeds clocked in at 0.45 megabits per second, more than a few headaches in the past and has requires some changes to her daily routine at times.

"I came into work at 3:30 a.m. one day because I had stuff I had to get done and I had spent the entire whole day before that and was unsuccessful to make it work," said Green.

"So I came in 3:30 in the morning to accomplish that task."

Pockets of problems province-wide

David Coon, the provincial Green Party leader, said rural internet in New Brunswick is, "poor." (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

According to 2014 information from the CRTC, 2,538 people on the island have under-served or unserved internet access. The other Fundy Isles also have internet issues with the under-served and unserved population being 296 on Campobello Island and 187 on Deer Island.

But it's not just the islands that are having a problem, much of rural New Brunswick has internet issues.

Carleton York Progressive Conservative MLA Carl Urquhart said internet access in his riding runs the gamut from good to non-existent. When the service is spotty, problems follow.

"It hurts everybody basically. Even the emergency measures, fire department and businesses," said Urquhart.

Green Party Leader David Coon is also critical of rural internet in New Brunswick.

"It's poor in most rural parts of New Brunswick. It's poor for work purposes and it's poor for home purposes," said Coon.

Frustrations on Grand Manan

Green tested the speed on her Bell Aliant internet at 0.45mbps. When asked for comment on the internet situation in Grand Manan Bell Aliant responded via email, “We are still reviewing the CRTC decision, and have no additional information to provide at this point.” (Darren Pittman/The Canadian Press)

As for Grand Manan, Green said much of the island has complaints about service.

"Everybody complains about it, everybody," she said. "[A neighbour] said they'd been here a year and a half and hadn't been able to get internet. There's a lot of people waiting to get internet."

Green's internet provider is Bell Aliant. She called them about her issues and didn't receive encouraging news.

"[They said] there was no more capacity and no more would be sold," said Green.

When asked for comment on the internet situation in Grand Manan, Bell Aliant responded via email: "We are still reviewing the CRTC decision, and have no additional information to provide at this point."

Part of the CRTC's plan is to offer $750 million over five years to build infrastructure to expand internet access. Urquhart said compared to other jurisdictions, New Brunswick is ahead of the pack in the internet race. He admits though it could be much better.

"If the power stops one pole below you, you really don't care how much power is in the province," said Urquhart.

Green hopes the CRTC's new targets will become a reality. She said if she knew her internet would be so spotty it would have been a consideration in her decision to start her business. She said the targets would help her and her business.

"It would be wonderful to have it because the faster I can work the more money I can make."

now