Nova Scotia

Month-long wait to fix internet outages 'foolishness,' say rural customers

Sporadic, unreliable, and hard to get fixed — that's how some people living along the Bay of Fundy describe their internet service from Eastlink.

'We do have modern-day needs and we want these conveniences,' says woman who relies on Eastlink service

Some people living on the Bay of Fundy say their Eastlink internet service is riddled with problems. (CBC)

Sporadic, unreliable and hard to get fixed — that's how some Nova Scotians living along the Bay of Fundy describe their internet service from Eastlink.

Stephanie Schaffner of Hampton, near Bridgetown, lost her internet connection on May 23. The telecommunications company, which is the only provider of high-speed internet in the area, told her a technician wouldn't be available until June 19 to fix the problem. 

Schaffner's family uses the internet to communicate, do banking, read the news and access entertainment. Checking a cellphone for that information is out of the question because there is no cell service in the rural area. 

"We're not people going back to the land," said Schaffner. "We do have modern-day needs and we want these conveniences.

"We're not looking for seclusion — we just enjoy where we live."

Wait times will be shortened, says Eastlink 

Jill Laing, a spokesperson for Eastlink, said in an email the service appointment for Schaffner "does not meet our standard quality of service."

After being contacted by CBC News, the company — which touts itself online as a "leading provider of high-speed internet" —  said it would fix the problem and provide customers with earlier appointment times, though it did not elaborate.

This isn't the first time people in the area complained about long wait times for service. Last year, another woman in Hampton was told she would have to wait almost two months to get repairs.

Schaffner said internet service to her Annapolis County home has been getting worse and worse over the last five years, but there are few other options. 

Eastlink's competitor, Bell Aliant — which also describes itself as a leading internet provider — offers only dial-up in the area.

$80 a month for 'sporadic' service

Schaffner said an earlier repair time from Eastlink doesn't fix the overall problem she and others in the area have with an internet service that only works from time to time. 

"Even just a little bit of sporadic internet is enough for Eastlink to say 'well, it works,'" said Schaffner. 

She pays about $80 a month for her broadband internet. The service has a base rate of $50 plus extra fees if Schaffner exceeds the 15 gigabytes-a-month data cap.   

This is the antenna Carla Pearle uses to receive wireless internet from Eastlink. (Carla Pearle)

Eastlink provides the internet wirelessly to households through a transmitter tower. People pick up the wireless signal through an antenna on their homes. 

Schaffner wants the company to build more towers, hire more technicians and upgrade the gear they put on people's homes to make the internet service more reliable. 

Laing said the company realizes its internet service has limitations.

"We recognize that customers in rural broadband communities, like Hampton, want to do more with their internet than this service enables," she said. 

"We continue to review opportunities to make improvements wherever it is feasible to do so."

Carla Pearle lives on Arlington Road in the community of Mount Rose. She said it can take anywhere from a week to a month for a tech from Eastlink to get out to repair her internet. (Carla Pearle)

Eastlink said it has invested more than $100 million across Nova Scotia in the last five years delivering high-speed internet service to hundreds of small towns and communities. In the last two years, it also spent an additional $3 million to upgrade services in numerous communities. 

The company also works with municipalities and community groups to bring higher speed internet to small communities. 

'This is just foolishness'

Down the road from Hampton in Mount Rose, Stephanie Schaffner's sister-in-law Carla Pearle said she often waits anywhere from a week to a month to get her internet fixed. 

Recently she had to go to a Tim Hortons to access the internet while she waited for an important email. She said her teenager has homework that needs to be looked up online, but he often can't do that because the internet is down. 

"I'm on a first-name basis with the techs that come to my house. They're like, 'Oh, haven't seen you in a while. How's the kids?' I shouldn't be able to do that," said Pearle.

"If there was another internet provider, I would be with them in a second because this is just foolishness."