Pictou-Advocate-opinion

Rural residents deserve same Internet service as ‘townies’ receive

Opinion

To the Editor:

Does the Internet help enable Nova Scotia’s rural communities to prosper economically? I say no, it doesn’t, certainly not in the way it could.

The highest speed that my Internet service provider (ISP) can sell me is 1.5 megabits/second, right at the very bottom of the Internet speed scale. In this age of cloud computing we depend on the Internet for most services and data that our computers use. Slow Internet means slow computing, taking us longer to complete a task.

Let’s look at an example: I’m disabled and must work from my home in rural Guysborough County. Recently I wanted to bid on a contract for designing and building a commercial website. But I couldn’t bid competitively.

Here’s why: Densely populated areas in Nova Scotia get Internet speeds of 50 to 100 megabits/second (Mbps). That means that if a resident or business based in nearby Antigonish bids on the contract and quotes a labour price of $50/hr, then I must price my labour at less than $5/hr, less than half Nova Scotia’s minimum wage, to be competitive. In other words the townie can do at least 10 times as much work as I can in an hour, so I must work for pennies.

My Internet service is so slow that it is very difficult to remain focused during wait times.

Sometimes I even forget what I was trying to do, slowing tasks even further.

My ISP promised me a speed upgrade to 10 Mbps starting in February of 2017. That was rescheduled to May and then recently to June. Anyhow, I’m still waiting.

Although that will help me a whole lot, 10 Mbps is now considered “fairly slow” in the industry.

Canada’s CRTC set a goal on 50 Mbps for all Canadians by 2020.

The price? 10 Mbps will cost me about the same as 100 Mbps in nearby Antigonish, 10 times faster in town for the same price.

Why can’t rural residents get similar value/price as townie’s do? It’s because costs of delivery by ISPs are higher for rural regions. Bell Aliant’s Fibe service, for instance, offering speeds up to 1 Gbps, would be prohibitively expensive to deliver to rural Guysborough County residents even though their fibre optic cable runs from Antigonish to Dartmouth along highway 7 where I live. I understand that this cable is a redundant route used only as a backup. But I can see it from my window and I want it!

But ISPs are in business to be profitable. It seems that we rural residents need more help from our governments if we are ever to realize the CRTC goal. Then, maybe someday new technology will solve this disparity and give all Nova Scotians a fair shake on this.

While we see progress in making the Internet promise a reality in underdeveloped countries we also need help right here at home in our underdeveloped rural communities.

Bill Carpan
RiverMagic Productions
RR 2 Aspen

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