Nfld. & Labrador

The Newfoundland town where internet speeds go to die

A family in New-Wes-Valley says they are paying too much for Bell Aliant service that's too slow, and their neighbours don't know how bad it is.

Family in New-Wes-Valley says their internet speeds, price aren't worth the high cost

A four-minute YouTube video can take as long as one hour to upload in the Stokes family home in New-Wes-Valley. Sandy Stokes says his upload speeds reach 0.5 megabits per second, a fraction of what is available in communities with fibre internet. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

A New-Wes-Valley man says his internet speeds have slowed and his bills have jumped since he moved from St. John's to rural Newfoundland — and he calls his Bell Aliant service "a rip-off."

"That's the only way I can state it," said Sandy Stokes. "If you're like me, and you're into this type of thing, don't move to New-Wes-Valley."

If you're like me … don't move to New-Wes-Valley.- Sandy Stokes

Stokes and his wife are paying more than $85 each month for Bell Aliant service with a download speed of 7 megabits per second.

That's only 5 per cent as fast as speeds widely available in St. John's and neighbouring communities in Bonavista Bay. Bell Aliant offers fibre service with a download-and-upload speed of 150 megabits per second for an introductory price of $69 a month.

Sandy Stokes pounds his fist against a countertop in exclamation as he describes the price of his internet package in New Wes Valley. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"You can't do two or three things at once with this internet," Stokes said. "I mean, when you search our speeds … Google tells us that we can't even operate two devices at once in our house!"

Pushing back on slow speeds

Stokes organized a Facebook group for New-Wes-Valley residents in an effort to tell his neighbours that their service isn't up to par.

He's also called Bell Aliant to ask when his community will see upgrades, and its competitors to urge them to start offering better service in New-Wes-Valley.

Rogers does not offer traditional home internet services in the community, but Stokes says Xplornet has recently started offering packages.

Internet speeds measured by Sandy Stokes in his home in New-Wes-Valley, compared to speeds measured at the CBC Studio in Gander, N.L. (CBC)

On top of the $85 monthly fee for his Bell Aliant line, Stokes also pays for a Bell Mobility internet hub and extra data on his family's cell phone plans. In all, he estimates he spends $300 monthly for internet access.

Bell Aliant has told him it has no plans for upgrades in his town.

"Service pricing can vary by location and services available," the company said in a statement.

"Advanced broadband networks are very costly to build out and operate and the required investment can be difficult to justify in smaller or more sparsely populated areas such as New-Wes-Valley. We have no current plans for extensive upgrades in the area but we do take customer feedback like this into account when planning future network investment."

Big impact for the family

At the Stokes family house, a four-minute YouTube video — like the videos that Stokes has started to film with his daughter, Allie — can take more than an hour to upload.

Allie Stokes talks about her Nintendo Labo toys for a YouTube video filmed by her father, Sandy Stokes. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

It's more than Allie's YouTube career at risk — Bryttyne Stokes, Allie's mom, has had to rethink her plans for long-distance education.

"I was going to do it at home. It was a lot easier because we have a daughter and the closest thing to us for CNA is Gander," she said. "I could do it while she was in school."

But to get a connection dependable enough for her course work, she would have to travel about 30 kilometres — so she's ditched her plans, and has found a job in the community.

Bryttyne Stokes says she has to turn off her wifi connection on her cellphone when she enters her house, and can only reliably load content using her cell phone's data package. Her husband Sandy Stokes says he turns off his phone wifi connection every day in his house, in an attempt to allow Netflix or other services to load. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Sandy Stokes says Bell Aliant should upgrade his service, or at least give his family a discount on the price they are paying.

"Rural Newfoundland is disconnected enough, this connects us to the world," he said. "This was a very big factor with me moving out here."

About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.