Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia announces first round of high-speed internet projects

The first $45 million from a $193 million provincial trust fund has been allotted to wired, high-speed internet projects across mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.

Fibre-op projects are set to begin in dozens of rural communities this year

Crown corporation Develop Nova Scotia has designated where the first $45 million out of a $193 million trust fund for improving rural internet access will go. (Tim Wimborn/Reuters)

The province announced Friday what communities will be the initial recipients of an initiative to make high-speed internet accessible to 95 per cent of Nova Scotians within two to five years.

In 2018, the Liberal government established a trust fund of $193 million to achieve that objective. Currently, only 70 per cent of Nova Scotians have access to high-speed internet.

Crown corporation Develop Nova Scotia, which is managing the province's high-speed internet initiative, announced the first round of projects Friday, which will use about $45 million from the trust fund.

About 4,600 homes and businesses in Clare will have access to a new fibre-op network, said Ronnie LeBlanc, the warden of the Municipality of Clare. He said the project should be completed in 18 to 24 months.

"It gives us the opportunity to compete and attract new businesses and residents to the area," LeBlanc said.

Warden gets calls about high-speed internet 'all the time'

Right now, he said internet connections are slow, unreliable and inconsistent across his municipality and some residents have no internet access at all.

This poses a problem for attracting new residents and visitors, LeBlanc said.

"As a councillor and as warden, we get calls all the time," he said. "And speaking to real estate agents and people who are dealing in real estate, that's usually the first question they get is, 'If I buy that property...can I get internet?'"

Clare is among dozens of communities that will gain access to wired, high-speed internet with help from provincial government funding. Areas that will see new projects begin this year include parts of Shelburne County, the Annapolis Valley, Cumberland and Colchester counties, and rural Cape Breton. The list also include parts of the regional municipalities in Halifax and Cape Breton.

In addition to the money from the province, $56 million will come from municipal governments and the private companies that have signed contracts with Develop Nova Scotia to provide the upgraded internet services: Bell Canada, Xplornet, Mainland Telecom, Cross Country and Seaside Communications.

New projects should make internet accessible to 86% of population

When the new projects are complete, about 86 per cent of the province will have high-speed internet access, said the Crown corporation.

About 1,000 homes and businesses in the Municipality of Barrington will be covered by one of the new fibre-op projects. Warden Eddie Nickerson said slow internet is a topic of daily conversation in his community.

"It's pretty tough for those that are in the outlying areas to do business, and those with children in school, it makes it hard," he said.

Barrington's fibre-op project will mostly serve the western part of the community, said Nickerson, while the eastern half will remain "underserved." He said he hopes the rest of the community will be captured in future rounds of the province's high-speed internet initiative.

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