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Municipality of Shelburne seeking $1.1 million for Phase 3 of internet broadband project to provide high-speed service

Letter to the editor
Computer keyboard.

SHELBURNE, N.S. – The Municipality of Shelburne is hoping to tap into the recently created Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust to help implement phases three and four of a multi-million broadband internet project and are just waiting for contract details to be finalized before beginning implementation of phase two.

The first phase of the comprehensive Fiber to the Home (FTTH) Broadband Project was undertaken in 2016 in partnership with Bell Aliant. The project’s aim is to provide high-speed internet service to at least 95 percent of the municipality’s rural households through four interdependent phases.

The first phase, which has been completed, connected 343 premises (approximately 10 per cent of residents) with fiber broadband in the areas of Highway 203, Ohio; Sandy Point and Jordan Falls, and the Shelburne Marine Industrial Park. The project was funded by the municipality ($247,500), Bell Aliant ($107,500) and the provincial government ($75,000).

Funding for phase two, which was approved in May through the federal government’s Connect to Innovate program, will provide 36.9 kilometres of backbone fiber from Gunning Cove through to Northeast Harbour. This phase will be funded with contributions from the municipality ($50,000), Bell Aliant ($51,000) and the Federal Government ($300,000).

Although confirmation that the application was successful was received by the municipality in May 2018, the contract between the federal government and Bell Aliant for the funding has not yet been finalized. Therefore, the work has not yet commenced.

The third phase of the project consists of a plan to provide fiber internet coverage to approximately 2,473 premises (70 per cent of our residents) at a total cost of approximately $3,609,240. In this phase Bell Aliant would contribute $1,605,886, with the municipality being responsible for the balance in the amount of $2,003,354. The Municipality of Shelburne currently has $890,030 budgeted for Phase 3 and will be seeking federal and provincial funding for the remaining $1,113,324.

The fourth phase involves the expansion of the fiber internet coverage proposed in phase three to at least 95 percent of residents (which would be the remaining 15 per cent of residents, at a minimum).

“We are applying for funding from the Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust to help offset the costs of phases three and four and if additional money is required to complete the Project then we will consider other funding options including borrowing to complete the build,” states a press release from the municipality.

Develop Nova Scotia (DNS) has been tasked with designing and managing the implementation strategy for rural high-speed internet across the province in connection with the Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust ($194 million) and are developing a competitive bid process to receive proposals expected to be released late this fall. Successful proponents in the competitive process will be recommended for funding by Develop Nova Scotia to the Trust.

Once the competitive process is released by DNS, the municipality “will be submitting a fully costed funding application for the provision of Bell Aliant’s Fiber to the Home internet service to at least 95 percent of the rural households in the Municipality,” reads the media release. “An independent IT Consultant, retained by the MDS, has reviewed the Bell Proposal and confirmed that the fiber internet services offered by Bell Aliant would meet or exceed the anticipated requirements of DNS and that the service would put the MDS on a communications level playing field with urban areas worldwide.”

If funding is approved, “we will be in a position to initiate the broadband internet implementation immediately; while planning to raise any shortfall in required funding, but this will not delay the start of the implementation.”

Meanwhile the municipality is continuing to work with Bell Aliant on phase four to establish the total cost of the expanded deployment, the amount of the expected contribution from Bell and the amount of the subsidy required by Bell Aliant, which will be funded through a variety of sources including the Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust.

“This is a multi-million-dollar project for the Municipality to undertake and we simply cannot do it alone,” said Warden Penny Smith.

“We must partner with industry and other levels of government to be successful,” she said, adding “providing this vital service positions the municipality to provide its residents and businesses with the technology that is essential in today’s world.”

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