People in rural Nova Scotia continue to express frustration with the speed of their Internet connection. What is the broadband industry and government doing to fix this?
A recent announcement by Eastlink holds promise for Inverness County, provided you live along the route between Port Hastings and Inverness. Eastlink uses their cable television wiring to bring both cable TV and high speed Internet to their customers. They advertise download speeds from 100 Mbps to 940 Mbps — quite a bit faster than the up to 5 Mbps speed offered from a government subsidized provider. This would solve slow Internet speeds for people who live close enough to the new wiring. More details are expected this fall.
How can Internet speeds be improved for people who do not live along main corridors like Route 19? This week at the Public Accounts Committee of the provincial legislature, the Department of Business suggested solutions may involve partnerships with municipalities and Internet providers. Yet this has not brought results when it comes to improving cell phone coverage in our area. These partnerships are few and far between. In fact there has been just one on Cape Breton Island – in Victoria County in 2014 – that I am aware of. Municipalities may not have the money needed to partner to improve service in the many areas that need it.
This year the provincial government has put aside $6 million to come up with a long term plan and a clear road map for the next 10 to 15 years. They have also released a report that included the story of how Kentucky improved their service by building an Internet highway through the state, which Internet providers, both private and public, could then branch out from to connect communities. This may be a solution for Nova Scotia but it will take government money partnering with Internet service providers to make it work. At the Public Accounts meeting, the province said right now they are “sharing information and having a conversation” with the federal government.
The future of our rural area depends on our ability to stay connected to the world. That means we need fast Internet and cell phone coverage to give people the ability to stay here, or move here, when they have the opportunity to work from home. These are wise investments for federal and provincial governments wanting to support rural economies.