PEI

Faster rural internet plan comes late for some P.E.I. communities

Some Island communities say they won't be waiting around for the chance to take advantage of new government funding, aimed at making the internet faster in rural areas of P.E.I.

Miltonvale Park, North Shore resort municipality still moving ahead with own initiatives

Some Island communities say they won't be waiting around for the chance to take advantage of new government funding, aimed at boosting internet speeds in rural areas of P.E.I. (Chinnapong/Shutterstock)

Some P.E.I. communities say they won't be waiting around for the chance to take advantage of new government funding aimed at boosting internet speeds in rural areas of the Island.

The Island government announced last week a plan to provide federal and provincial funds so high-speed internet service providers can make the business case work in "under-serviced" areas. 

The mayor of Miltonvale Park says the announcement comes late for his community, just outside Charlottetown. 

The community council recently signed a contract with Bell Aliant that will see the council pay $203,000 to have high speed, fibre optic internet extended to 200 households. 

"It's quite a lot of money. It's all of our gas tax money and some more [community funds]," said Mayor Hal Parker. 

"But without high-speed internet, we couldn't have any home businesses really that would be effective," he said. "You have to have it for the businesses in the community."

'Whatever funding they give us'

Parker said even after Bell Aliant's installations are complete, about 25 per cent of households in Miltonvale Park will still be without adequate internet. 

Matthew Jelley, the Resort Municipality's mayor who helped orchestrate the deal, says he hasn't heard any complaints from residents who wish they'd waited for the government to pay instead. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

He's hoping those households will still be able to take advantage of the new government funding. 

"The governments have talked about this for a long time. So for us to not get some funding, I'd be very disappointed," said Parker.

"We'll take whatever funding they give us and continue expanding the internet within our community."

If it's going to take five years, is it worth waiting for funding or should we get it done now?— Matthew Jelley

Several residents and businesses in the Stanley Bridge area each recently paid hundreds of dollars out of pocket to help entice Eastlink to provide them with faster speeds. 

Matthew Jelley is the mayor of The Resort Municipality of Stanley Bridge, Hope River, Bayview, Cavendish and North Rustico and helped orchestrate the deal. He says he hasn't heard any complaints from residents who wish they'd waited for the government to pay instead. 

"For us looking back, we got our project done, development's happening around us, and residents are enjoying the amenities," said Jelley.

"So there's no second thoughts or looking back from our point of view."

Similar plan moving ahead 

The resort municipality is now moving forward on a similar plan that would see about 30 residents along the stretch between Cavendish and North Rustico chip in some of their own money.

The Resort Municipality is hoping to see internet speeds improved at 30 homes and businesses along this stretch between Cavendish and North Rustico. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Jelley said if most residents decide they'd rather wait to see how they can benefit from the government's new funding initiative, they can — but he predicts they'll want to move forward on their own. 

"What we've heard is 'get the project done and we're willing to contribute what we can,'" said Jelley. 

"I think the timelines are the biggest thing. You know, if it's going to take five years, is it worth waiting for funding or should we get it done now?"

The province issued a request for proposals to internet service providers last week. It said it hopes to have at least some agreements in place by the end of the year. 

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About the Author

Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.

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