PCs to stick with previous government's internet plan

P.E.I.'s governing Progressive Conservatives say they plan to go ahead with the internet investments announced earlier this year by the previous Liberal government.

Minister Matthew MacKay says funding is also available for small internet service providers

P.E.I.'s governing Progressive Conservatives plan to stick with a funding agreement announced by the previous Liberal government, which aims to improve high-speed internet access in rural P.E.I. (John Robertson/CBC)

P.E.I.'s governing Progressive Conservatives say they plan to go ahead with the internet plans announced earlier this year by the previous Liberal government.

In March, the provincial and federal governments announced joint investments to improve internet service in rural P.E.I. 

Bell and Xplornet were chosen to receive more than $36 million in funding — the majority coming from Ottawa. 

In the legislature Wednesday, Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Matthew MacKay said the internet agreement was one of the first things he reviewed when he took over the portfolio.

"About 24 hours into the job I sat down, reviewed the last RFP, which — I will give credit where credit is due — government had actually been in the right line of sight with this," MacKay said. 

Funding for small providers 

The issue of rural high-speed internet was brought up during question period by Green MLA Ole Hammarlund. 

Hammarlund, who is the Opposition critic for economic growth, tourism and culture, asked how the province plans to make sure Xplornet and Bell deliver on their promises — and "why the many local P.E.I. internet firms have been excluded."

Ole Hammarlund, Green MLA and Opposition critic for economic growth, tourism and culture, asked about the province's plans for rural high-speed internet. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. )

MacKay said small providers are not excluded. 

When the previous government announced the funding for Xplornet and Bell, it also promised $10 million in funding over five years for smaller companies. At the time government didn't provide details about how exactly the money would be awarded. 

In response to Hammarlund's question, MacKay provided some details Wednesday about how that funding will be used. 

Matthew MacKay, minister of economic growth, tourism and culture, says there are funding options available for small internet service providers. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. )

"We're offering low-interest loans, as well as 50-cent dollar grants to help some of these providers out. In the next two weeks we're providing a map, to show how it looks on P.E.I., and for them to provide an opportunity of input, how they'd like to see it as well," MacKay said. 

Will disclose contracts 

MacKay said his department will work to ensure that all providers — regardless of size — live up to the agreed expectations. 

"Everybody will follow by the same rules," MacKay said. 

MacKay also said he plans to publicly disclose all contracts he signs.

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