<strong>Annapolis-based group wants better broadband</strong>

Rural residents tired of party-line internet service

Heather Killen hkillen@annapolisspectator.ca
Published on February 21, 2014

About 20 people attended the Faux Broadband group meeting in Centrelea on Feb. 20, and the majority of these were small business owners who are negatively impacted by inadequate broadband service.

Heather Killen

By Heather Killen

The Spectator

hkillen@annapolisspectator.ca

 

An Annapolis-based group is hoping to drag Nova Scotia’s party-line style broadband into modern times.

Nancy Godfrey, of Centerlea, created the Faux-Broadband Facebook group earlier this year to raise the issue of the inadequate access to broadband in rural Nova Scotia.

Members compare notes about the poor service they receive, joking that the current service is so overloaded that residents have to take turns logging on, comparing it to the old party-line phone system.

This group aims to pressure the province into introducing and maintaining a minimum standard of acceptable service for broadband providers to follow, define internet access as a utility, call for an audit to detail the status of the Broadband for Nova Scotia agreement and verify the quality of service in rural areas.

“Rural areas have a right to the same level of internet service as urban areas. Rural residents pay the exact same bills as city residents but get considerably less for their money,” said Godfrey.

 

Current Options

Current broadband options for rural areas are neither reliable nor high speed, she says. Available services provide “stated” top end speeds of 1.5Mbps, but that is only if there is no one else using the system.

The more people using the service, the slower it becomes. She adds the majority of rural residents receive considerably less than that, in some cases as slow as dial-up speeds, while paying the same rates as non-rural customers.

The Faux-Broadband movement she started in Annapolis is quickly picking up in other areas of the province. Whenever they can, people in rural communities across Nova Scotia are logging on to express their frustration with substandard service in their communities.

While some of the grumbling is centered on poor access to services like Netflix, other concerns are based around economic development, property values, and educational access in rural areas.

 

Thursday Meeting

About 20 people attended the Faux Broadband group meeting in Centrelea on Feb. 20, and the majority of these were small business owners who are negatively impacted by inadequate broadband service.

Whether it’s a local landlord who can’t rent properties due to the lack of internet services there, or home-based businesses hampered by unreliable internet access and slow speeds, the service inadequacies in rural Annapolis are reducing opportunities for economic development and impacting property values, said the group.

Members in other communities have voiced similar complaints online via the group’s Facebook page.  Nena Wagner writes, “We live in Centrelea six months and would love to move full time but being an internet-based business makes it a difficult decision. An upload that takes 10 minutes in Ontario took us nine hours to upload in Nova Scotia.”

Christopher Cooper agrees, “we would dearly love to move our studios from Brantford, Ontario and the UK to Nova Scotia. This so-called high speed is little better than dial-up and frustrates me to no end. If we do decide to move full time (with the studios) we will be sure the choice of location would be dependent on internet access. Therefore it does affect our property value in Centrelea.”

 

Rural Access

Sara Gillis, of Halifax, writes, “My interest in the topic stems from some community work we are doing in rural HRM (Musquodoboit Valley). It was after we started working in that community that we realized there continues to be issues with rural access to broadband in this province.”

Meghan Alvaria voices another problem, accessing the Internet for school work. “If I could spend an hour and a half on a reliable internet connection in the evening, I would not have to be at work at 7 a.m. to upload assignments to virtual school, to plan or to input grades into PowerSchool.”

Similar complaints of poor service were heard from people in East Hants, Two Islands, South Rawdon, and Kings County.  Godfrey says the current rural wireless “broadband” doesn’t meet a current standard for true broadband connectivity.

The system is unreliable, overloaded, under-maintained, and even speed-throttled in some cases, said Godfrey.  Rural customers are paying the same rates as consumers in Halifax, but they receive far less service.

 

Meeting With Premier

The local group is meeting with Premier Stephen McNeil at his constituency office in Middleton on March 4 to discuss these concerns.

For more information on Members and Friends of Faux-Broadband Nova Scotia

http://www.facebook.com/groups/fauxbroadband