Cavendish takes rural internet matters into its own hands

The resort municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico has taken the matter of high-speed internet into its own hands, and is catching the attention of other rural communities.

Residents pledged money up front for service

Partners in the project included local residents, the internet service provider, and all levels of government, says Matthew Jelley. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

The resort municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico, on P.E.I.'s North Shore, has taken the matter of high-speed internet into its own hands, and is catching the attention of other rural communities.

Rural Islanders have heard years of promises of being connected, and years of disappointment as one plan after another was delayed or fell by the wayside.

Recently, Cavendish moved on its own. The municipality partnered with Eastlink, the federal and provincial governments and local residents to connect a 200-lot subdivision to high-speed internet. Mayor Matthew Jelley said the participation of the homeowners was key.

"We went out to our residents and we asked them for a pledge of $500 per home and we raised over $30,000 that way," said Jelley.

"Not everybody paid in. It wasn't tied to the service. It was more an investment in the overall community and that's what I think probably made it quite unique."

Jelley said the project cost about $250,000. Eastlink covered half the cost, the federal and provincial governments pitched in $80,000, and the final $15,000 came from the municipal council.

The community spoke with a number of internet providers on the project, Jelley said. There were constructive discussions with both Bell and Eastlink, but the community settled on Eastlink.

Working together

Several communities on the Island have approached Cavendish about how the project happened, Jelley said. Communities will have to do their homework, he said, looking into what services are available nearby from which providers in order to find the best fit.

Ultimately, Jelley said, the project worked because the residents were on board.

"If you want that improved service I think [take] control of it, using government as a partner, but raising some of your own money," he said.

"Working with the providers to see what's possible and what isn't in your area, to me, is an appealing solution, because then it's going to places where there's motivated people to make it happen."

A further expansion of high-speed internet, on a similar model, has begun this month.

Miltonvale Park decides to wait

Another municipality that has provided high-speed internet to some of its residents decided to hold off on extending the reach of its network, pending a deal from the province, which it says was supposed to be finalized last fall.

Shari MacDonald, the CAO for Miltonvale Park, said the municipality was making plans last fall to use federal gas tax money to pay for a second phase of its fibre rollout when provincial officials advised the community it would be included in the province's plan for high-speed internet, and that contracts with Bell and Xplornet would be signed within two to three weeks.

Those contracts, for a plan announced in March of 2019 by the previous provincial government, still haven't been finalized. The province now says they should be signed within weeks.

MacDonald said there are still about 150 homes in the community without good internet connections.

"So many things you can't do, and anybody who's trying to run a home business, or students who are trying to study — it's so limiting [in] this day and age not to have decent internet."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning


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