Nova Scotia

Rural store owner ready to give up after internet battle with Bell Aliant

A gas station and grocery store owner in Amherst Shore, N.S., is considering giving up his business after he says he's lost thousands of dollars due to poor internet service in his area.

Internet connection was down for weeks; customers couldn't pay by Interac or credit card

For several weeks this summer, customers of Amherst Shore Country Store could only pay with cash. (Amherst Shore Country Store/Facebook)

A gas station and grocery store owner on Nova Scotia's north shore is considering giving up his business after he says he's lost thousands of dollars due to poor internet service in his area. 

Whenever there's damp weather, Peter McCathie said internet at the Amherst Shore Country Store in Amherst Shore cuts out so customers can't pay by Interac or credit card. 

"We just watched dozens and dozens of people just drive away," McCathie told CBC's Information Morning.

That's what happened recently for a stretch of several weeks. The summer is when 80 per cent of sales are made, said McCathie, who's taken to pinning tabs behind the counter that tally how much customers owe so they can return and pay by cash.

"This is our busy season and it's stressful enough but to have to deal with this, it adds a tonne of stress and ... we're honestly thinking of moving on," he said. 

Connections shorting out

Service interruptions started with the phones about three years ago. In June it began hurting the store's internet connection.

McCathie said it's a problem with the 40-year-old phone lines along Highway 366, and that he's been told by Bell Aliant technicians that the cable is shorting out when it rains.

He said he's tried several times to get an answer from Bell Aliant, but he said his understanding is the lines won't be replaced because it costs too much. 

"So they just do this little Band-Aid repair," said McCathie.

With the recent dry weather, his store's Interac and credit card services have been online, but he's not optimistic they'll stay that way.

In an email, a spokesperson for Bell Aliant said the company worked with the "customer directly a few weeks ago and were able to resolve the issues he'd been experiencing."

What happened to internet funding?

When asked whether the company is working on a permanent fix, Bell Aliant said it will continue to monitor the service "and make any required adjustments as needed."

McCathie has been in touch with his local MLA but he's not sure where to go from here.

Challenging Bell Aliant in court over lost wages would be costly, and there are few other affordable internet service providers in a region that's struggled with poor connectivity. 

McCathie noted the Liberals promised during the recent election campaign to spend $14.5 million on improving broadband internet access in the province.

"I don't have a solution," he said. "It's just frustrating when the McNeil government has put aside $14.5 million to improve service to our area and they can't improve it. They can't even service it properly."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Smith

Digital Associate Producer

Emma Smith is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with story ideas and feedback at emma.smith@cbc.ca.

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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