HALIFAX: The province reaffirmed its commitment to upgrade high speed Internet service in rural Nova Scotia after questions from the MLA for Inverness.

During the fall session of the Nova Scotia Legislature, Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster questioned the Minister of Business about high speed Internet service for rural users.

“My fear is that the government’s announcement of millions of dollars has effectively stalled any further improvements by the private sector for rural Internet users,” said MacMaster. “Government investment may be necessary, but Internet Service Providers [ISPs] should not expect taxpayers to pay for regular upgrades to their existing service.”

MacMaster was referring to an announcement made over the past year by the provincial government that it would be spending money to improve rural Internet service.

“Many people tell me their Internet service is actually getting worse all the time,” said MacMaster. “Service providers do not seem to be improving their infrastructure to keep pace with the need to transfer more data, more quickly.”

MacMaster noted the legislature has fast data transfer speeds of 850 mbps but many people living in rural Nova Scotia are living with less than 1 megabyte per second.

“Our own constituency office in Inverness is now getting less than 1 mbps,” stated MacMaster. “It is the slowest we have ever had.”

MacMaster questioned if Internet Service Providers are waiting for government to carry the cost of rural Internet service.

“Why spend their money on even basic improvements, when they can spend ours?” the MLA asked.

Business minister Geoff MacLellan responded that the province is “setting the tone” for the rest of the country in broadband and Internet investments.

“The reality is that in some areas, some regions of the province, there’s no business plan, there’s no – it doesn’t make any viable sense for a private sector operator to try to invest to get to these remote places,” MacLellan told the house. “That’s just the reality of it, so they look to government, they look to the people who they elect to put together a program that provides that and invests very important tax dollars to get that job done.”

In his supplemental question, the Progressive Conservative MLA wanted to know what conversations MacLellan had with the ISPs and whether the private sector remains committed to “constant improvement of service and continued investment of their own” to improve service in rural Nova Scotia.

In response, the minister added that the ISPs know their roles in the process.

“They’re going to have a very important role here,” MacLellan said. “I’m not going to throw them under the bus and make this that they’re part of this problem. They are going to be part of the solution and that includes private sector investments, so they’re going to help us get there.”