Corrine Dyment is ready to get better connected.
Dyment is among the thousands of Islanders, residential and business customers alike, who have been hindered and exasperated for years by slow, poor Internet capability.
“We have very poor service on Lennox Island,’’ says Dyment.
“It’s not great for business at all.’’
As band manager for the Lennox Island First Nation, Dyment regularly encounters difficulty trying to communicate with other departments or agencies. Something as seemingly simple as sending an email can be a test of her patience and nerves.
“It’s very frustrating,’’ she says.
Dyment, however, was all smiles Friday as she listened to details of a major investment in Internet to benefit rural Islanders.
The Tracadie Community Centre, tucked back off Route 2 in rural Tracadie Cross, was the fitting gathering place for the federal government and the province to announce a $74-million project to allow P.E.I. residents and businesses to better connect to the world.
“It will make our province a national leader in Internet quality and fulfil a promise we made to Islanders in 2017,’’ says Premier Wade MacLauchlan.
The project will see nearly 30,000 Island residents and businesses, almost all of whom are in rural parts of the province, gain access to Internet that is in many cases 10 to 50 times faster than what is currently available.
"With the new money that’s being put in with the upgrades of all the infrastructures, it will be a huge difference in capacity, just downloading videos, talking to family members, increasing the business opportunities."
It is expected that close to 6,000 homes will gain access by the end of 2019 with another 15,000 in 2020 and 9,000 in 2021.
Naturally, Dyment is hopeful Lennox Island will gain access sooner rather than later.
Regardless, she is thrilled much better access is on the way.
“Very pleased for both our band businesses and also for the community at large,’’ she says.
Janet Ellis of Stanhope says capacity in rural P.E.I. is just not suitable for anybody trying to operate a business or trying to contact family members and friends anywhere around the world.
“And with the new money that’s being put in with the upgrades of all the infrastructures, it will be a huge difference in capacity, just downloading videos, talking to family members, increasing the business opportunities,’’ says Ellis.
“You can have face-to-face without interruptions or still pictures not knowing what’s going on at the other end.’’
The federal government is providing $33 million, Internet service providers Bell Canada and Xplornet will provide $37 million and the province will invest $3.5 million.
Bell Canada and Xplornet will carry out the project using a mix of fibre to the home and wireless broadband technology.
“This will be one of the biggest and most comprehensive infrastructure projects ever carried out in the history of the province,’’ says Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Paula Biggar.
“It will provide tremendous benefit to thousands of Island families and businesses.’’
The province is finalizing agreements with both companies for service delivery and funding dispersement. Funding will only be dispersed as construction and performance milestones are met, according to the P.E.I. Department of Economic Development and Tourism.
In addition to the funding announced Friday, the province will invest $10 million over the next five years to carry out further improvements to Internet service for communities and businesses across the province.