By Jennifer Hoegg
Justin Fynes hopes his routine calls to Eastlink, asking for high-speed Internet access, will soon come to an end.
He and his wife Virginia built a house in Morristown three years ago, figuring the provincial government and the communication company would come through on their promise of rural wireless services.
“We live on a paved, main highway, and the neighbours who live on either side of us have high-speed, and I can’t get it,” Fynes said.
A technician has been out to the home several times, without any luck. Two years ago, Fynes said he even paid for snow removal at the company’s request for a service call.
In the meantime, the couple has a contract to access Internet over the mobile phone network for a limited amount of data.
“We’re still stuck watching carefully what we do with Internet,” he said.
That’s not always easy.
“I have a business and I go way over my limit,” Virginia Fynes added.
Last spring, Justin said he spoke to Eastlink and was told again the company was “working on it.”
“I said to him, ‘you were working on it two years ago and I got a two-year contract with Telus for a hub that is coming to an end.’”
An international student from Austria is coming to stay with the Fynes family later this month and the guest would like to be able to e-mail and Skype with his family overseas.
“We told him we would take him somewhere with Internet, but it’s embarrassing and awful,” Justin said.
“I absolutely love where I live, but if I had known it was going to take this time, I would have considered building somewhere else.”
Hope for connection
Kings West MLA Leo Glavine said there have been promising developments on the issue. A proposal from Eastlink is forthcoming to offer satellite service to some of the homes the current broadband approach hasn’t reached, he said.
“We continue to work with the province and are currently awaiting final approval from the province on the parameters of the proposed solution for those hardest to reach customers,” Eastlink spokesman Jill Laing said in an email.
Kings-North MLA Jim Morton said Jan. 14 he thinks the Department of Economic and Rural Development would be open to the proposal.
“The initial terms of the contract are still the terms – in terms of standard of service,” Morton said. “What the department would expect is any proposal might suggest variations on the technology, but … would meet the quality of the standards laid out in the contract.”
However, Mike Innis - who helped organize a public meeting, a committee and a petition on the issue in November - isn’t convinced satellite technology is the right solution.
“From my research – unfortunately from all of my research - it’s not much better than dial-up,” the Huntington Point resident said. “And it is affected by the weather.”
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Innis said the newly-formed Public Committee for High Speed Internet Access Nova Scotia is hearing from people throughout the province without high-speed access and compiling a map to present to the minister.
“We’re spreading like wildfire,” Innis said. “Some of the impact statements we have been collecting are heartbreaking.”
Glavine and Innis both suggest it might be time to look beyond broadband wireless as the rural solution.
“If fibre optic technology is where things are headed for the future, then why not jump on it now and get the infrastructure?” Innis said.
In the meantime, Innis said, additional public meetings are planned for the Berwick area and the committee is researching other options and companies for service.
“There are solutions out there,” he said. “They just need to be addressed.”
What the MLAs say…
Leo Glavine, who can only get dial-up Internet at his own home, has been vocal on the issue.
“Having some degree of reliable high-speed is what Nova Scotians were promised in 2006 with great fanfare,” Glavine said. “Here we are with dial-up and the inability to run a small business, to research… to do banking from their home.”
In terms of advancing rural Nova Scotia, he added, high-speed Internet and the ability for people to live and work in small communities can be “huge.”
“I do know it’s a very frustrating process for a number of people in my constituency who haven’t been able to get the service,” Kings-South MLA Ramona Jennex said.
“For each individual who has contacted our office, we have done our best with (the department of Economic and Rural Development) to support them. I know it’s a very frustrating thing.”
Overall, though, Kings North MLA Jim Morton believes the project to provide high-speed Internet across the province has been “a huge success.”
“It has transformed the lives of people through rural Nova Scotia,” Morton said. “At this point, the focus is on serving those remaining customers.”
Jennex and Morton both said they understood the number of people waiting in southwest Nova Scotia to be approximately 800.
“In a province of almost a million people, we’re down to what they call the last mile,” Jennex said, “but for those people who don’t have it, those aren’t comforting words.”