Province issues RFP for high-speed internet in rural areas

The province has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for high-speed internet solutions in rural areas of P.E.I.

Goal is to have agreements in place by Dec. 31 so work can start in early 2019

The CRTC has mandated download speeds of 50 mpbs and upload speeds of 10 mbps for 90 per cent of homes and businesses by the end of 2021. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The province has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for high-speed Internet solutions in rural areas of P.E.I.

The goal is to have service agreements in place by Dec. 31, so that work can begin in early 2019. Submissions close on Oct. 12.

Economic Development Minister Chris Palmer says the provincial and federal governments will provide funds so internet service providers (ISPs) can make the business case work in rural areas.

"In places where the density and number of customers just aren't there for the payback — because the infrastructure requirement is sometimes very significant — it's harder for them to make money," he said of ISPs.

Palmer said the amount of government funding won't be clear until submissions are received.

Meeting CRTC mandate for internet speeds

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has mandated download speeds of 50 megabits per second (mbps) and upload speeds of 10 mbps for 90 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses by the end of 2021.

P.E.I. has about 31,000 civic addresses that are considered underserved, Palmer said. 

Chris Palmer says he expects multiple internet service providers to receive awards through the RFP process. (Ken Linton/CBC)

The province is not necessarily looking for a one-size-fits-all solution from one provider — smaller ISPs can submit solutions focused on certain communities or geographic areas, Palmer said.

"My expectation would be there will be a number of ISPs that will receive awards during this, and their work can all start at the same time."

According to the RFP, solutions will be selected based on their underserved reach, speed and service levels and future scale-ability of the network.

Palmer raised issue with premier in January

Palmer said rural internet speed was the first issue he raised with Premier Wade MacLauchlan after being named to cabinet in January.

"[MacLauchlan] tasked me with getting that done. This is an important component of that," said Palmer. 

"We're working with the private sector, the folks who really know how to deliver internet service across P.E.I., and we're helping them improve their business case."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Jessica Doria-Brown

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