PEI

About 8 per cent of Islanders will be left behind in high-speed rural internet plan

Work to hook underserved addresses with high-speed internet is going to be delayed according to P.E.I.'s minister of economic growth — with some being left behind for even longer.

'It's taken a little longer than we wanted'

P.E.I.'s minister for economic growth says he's hopeful contracts will be finalized within the week. (John Robertson/CBC)

Work to hook underserved addresses with high-speed internet is going to be delayed according to P.E.I.'s minister of economic growth — with some being left behind for even longer.

During Tuesday's sitting of the legislature, Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker asked for an update on the provincial and federal governments' joint investments to improve internet service in rural P.E.I.

In March, Bell and Xplornet were chosen to receive more than $36 million in funding to make that happen — the majority coming from Ottawa. 

"We've yet to see any final contract and certainly no action when it comes to that and when we'll use the $74 million dollars between the government and Bell and Xplornet," said Bevan-Baker.

"How close are you to signing a final agreement with Bell and Xplornet and when can we expect to see work begin on that project?"

'This is going to roll out soon'

Minister of Economic Growth Matthew MacKay said government is in the final stages of the agreement with the two companies.

He expects that work should begin within the next two to three weeks. Islanders will be shown a map to see exactly which underserved households can expect high-speed Internet. 

The initial announcement indicated that close to 6,000 homes and businesses should have access to the improved services by the end of this year. MacKay said that timeline has changed.

"Needless to say it's taken a little longer than we wanted to but I want to make sure we get it done right. I want to make sure we provide all Islanders with high-speed internet as quick as possible," he said. 

"This is going to roll out soon and we're hoping by 2021 that the majority of Islanders will have proper high-speed Internet." 

While the initial plan promised to get all Islanders hooked up to high-speed internet, MacKay said it's likely that about seven to eight per cent will be left out depending on their location.

He said government is currently working to develop a second phase of the plan where those Islanders will get hooked up.

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