Eastlink internet cap causes worries for rural customers

A Port Royal man is frustrated that Eastlink’s rural Nova Scotia broadband internet packages will be capped at 15 gigabytes each month come August.

Eastlink is going to cap its broadband internet packages at 15 GB a month

In August, for every GB an Eastlink customer exceeds of their 15 GB limit, there will be a $2 fee, up to a maximum of $20 extra each month. (iStock)

A Port Royal man is frustrated that Eastlink's rural Nova Scotia broadband internet packages will be capped at 15 gigabytes each month come August.

"It really does mean that there's no way that we could [use] the internet the way it's typically used in 2015," said Gary Ewer. "We'd be basically back to a kind of a 2003, pre-YouTube, pre-Netflix, pre-anything streaming scenario."

He says that with the way people use the internet today, the cap will make it difficult or impossible to use the internet.

Eastlink's Rural Connect service is $46.95 a month, and provides service to Annapolis, Hants, Digby, Yarmouth, Queens, Lunenburg, Shelburne and Kings counties.  

In August, internet packages will be capped at 15 GB a month. Every GB over will mean a $2 fee, up to a maximum of $20 extra each month.

'Good for basic internet needs'

The company's website says the service, which runs with speeds up to 1.5 megabits per second is "good for basic internet needs like e-mail, general web browsing, and social media."

It also says it's not designed for streaming video, such as using a platform like Netflix.

Ewer runs a songwriter's blog and is worried about what this will mean for his business. He would like to work with students via Skype and video lessons.

"That would become impossible to do, especially with this new scenario where they're going to cap the service," Ewer said.

Eastlink and Seaside Communications were awarded contracts to provide broadband internet service to rural Nova Scotia in 2007; OmniGlobe Networks in 2008. There has been concern over communities still without access.

Eastlink spokesperson Jill Laing said the new cap is really about equal access.

"When it comes to rural internet service, our goal has been to deliver the service as it was intended to be used as designed by the government of the day," she said.

She said the service was never designed for streaming. When the service was designed, Netflix was still shipping videos by mail.

Laing said the 15 GB number was chosen because the number used per month for intended uses, like surfing the web, is around 12.

She said people who are using it for what it was meant for, like email and social media, should not be affected by this change.

Increased fees?

Ewer said people are concerned they could get cut off from using the internet if they reach the $20 maximum overage fee. He said he is concerned that maybe this $20 is just a temporary thing and could go up over time.

Laing said customers wouldn't be cut off from service if they reach the maximum overuse fee. The $20 is to help with the transition, she said. And there's also a usage tracker tool available online.

Whether the $20 fee will increase is another question.

"It's hard to speak to what will happen over time. We'll certainly evaluate where we're at later in the fall," said Laing.

Ewer is also concerned about speed. He said he's had 0.2 megabits per second, but it used to be around two to three megabits per second.

Other rural investments

Eastlink also recently invested about $1 million in Lower East Pubnico, and just over $1 million in part of the Annapolis Valley. Internet service there will now be similar to what's available in the major centres.

Ewer said there are other internet services available, but they come through cellular service. He said he's learned they're more for cottage use, rather than regular use. He said they would be expensive as well.

Ewer said he might have been a bit naive, but he thought the service would have improved, not declined.

"I always hear these interviews on the radio with experts about how to revitalize rural areas, and I'm always surprised how few of them ... mention the internet or even mention cell phone service, as if that's a problem that's already been solved. It's most certainly not been solved," he said.

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