Nova Scotia

Want high-speed internet? Build it yourself, like these villagers

Co-op in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley now providing wireless broadband service using dishes and towers.

Nova Scotia co-operative now providing wireless broadband service using dishes and towers

Co-op members need to install dishes on their homes in order to take advantage of the new service. (Brian Reid)

The first thing Lynn Roscoe did when she finally got high-speed internet at her home in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley — thanks to a local co-operative — was to livestream a motorcycle race from Qatar.

"It was fantastic," she said. "We're used to running it with a very slow startup and pixelation and hesitations and that sort of thing, and it was beautiful. It was up instantly and the high definition was incredible."

The Lawrencetown Community Development Co-operative started connecting people in and around the village of Lawrencetown, N.S., to wireless broadband internet service on March 24.

As of Wednesday morning, 147 customers had signed up for the service, which can accommodate approximately 800 users.

Easy installation

Roscoe, who is vice-president of the co-operative, said the installation at her home in nearby Clarence was straightforward.

"One of the easiest technical things I've ever done," she said.

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A dish inside her home was installed near a window facing one of two 27-metre towers the co-op has installed.

When the weather improves, Roscoe plans to move the dish outside, which she said will enhance the quality of the service even more.

Roscoe, who runs a software development company in Lawrencetown, N.S., said she plans to install the service at her office this coming weekend.

Lynn Roscoe says slow internet service puts her software development company at a disadvantage. (Lynn Roscoe)

Better for business

The quality of the internet service that is currently available at her workplace is "sufficient for what we are doing, but we would like to have better."

She said slower internet service puts her business at a disadvantage.

Three years ago, when Roscoe saw Bell Aliant technicians installing high-speed fibre-optic cables along the main road, "I actually ran out of my office and said: When is it coming?"

She said it still hasn't arrived for the general public in the village of Lawrencetown, which has a population of nearly 700.

Money stays local

Brian Reid, chairman of the public works committee in Lawrencetown and one of the directors of the co-operative, said the co-operative model makes sense because it can avoid competing directly with the private sector.

Subscribers to the co-op are also owners, which means they stand to benefit financially if all goes well.

"What's nice about this arrangement is that the profits stay in the community," Reid said.

Co-op members have installed two 27-metre towers and a third is coming in the next few months. (Brian Reid)

Plans for growth

He said board members are "delighted" with the number of subscribers so far, and they have plans to expand the network. A third tower is expected to be installed in the next couple of months, he said, and three more are planned.

Reid said co-op members are also planning to do workshops with people in other communities who are interested in starting similar projects. 

The initial membership fee to join the co-operative is $100 or it can be paid $10 at a time in monthly installments.

Monthly costs range from $60 a month or $100 a month depending on the program.

The project has cost approximately $200,000 to date, with contributions from the village and the federal government. Most of the work was done by volunteers, Reid said.

High speed in Lawrencetown

For its part, Bell Aliant told CBC News Wednesday night that it does offer DSL high speed internet service in Lawrencetown.

Reid said he used to have a back-up DSL line from Bell Aliant, but that he doesn't think 1.2 megabits per second download and .5 megabits per second upload translates as "high speed" in today's market. 

"Compared to dial-up, I suppose you might characterize it as 'high speed,'" Reid wrote CBC News in an email Wednesday night.

"I don't think many rural subscribers would agree with Bell's interpretation."


  • A previous version of this story did not properly attribute comments made by Brian Reid. This version has been corrected.
    Mar 30, 2017 11:42 AM AT

With files from the CBC's Information Morning