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P.E.I. Economic Development minister says government figuring out where fibre-optic lines needed

Annapolis County is finishing contract negotiations and getting closer to the day when it can start building a countywide fibre optic Internet backbone that will be able to bring high speeds to almost every business and residence in the county.
A fibre-optic network meant to bring high-speed internet across the province is still in the planning stages, says P.E.I.'s Economic Development minister. – File photo

A fibre-optic network meant to bring high-speed internet across the province is still in the planning stages, says Economic Development Minister Chris Palmer.

On Tuesday, Palmer said the government is working with internet service providers around the province to get an understanding of where coverage exists and what their plans are to extend fibre-optic service to homes or businesses.

“We’re trying to understand their plan so that we can help get that backbone to them, that connectivity and see how we really work together to make the best utilization of available resources, and that includes fibre and financial resources right across P.E.I.,” he said.

Reliable, fast internet service has been hard to come by for Islanders in some parts of the province.

Last fall the Liberal government announced it would build a high-speed fibre-optic “backbone” that internet service providers could connect to and offer expanded services to Islanders.

The physical work on that backbone hasn’t started yet, although Palmer said he expects some of it could begin this year.

Palmer said the government is trying to use some of the fibre-optic infrastructure already in place because hanging lines on poles is a big expense.

“If we have some on the pole, we don’t need to have a second strand there, so it’s really understanding where we need to build,” he said.

Opposition MLA Brad Trivers raised the issue during Tuesday’s question period where he asked for an update on the fibre-optic backbone project.

Trivers said the connection between the fibre-optic line and homes, which is known as the last mile, is an issue.

“If this project is to implement only a backbone, so-called transport fibre, then the last mile fibre that delivers high-speed internet to a consumer’s home or business will have to be put in place afterwards by private internet service providers,” he said.

Palmer said the last mile connection will be through a combination of government and service provider spending.

“The last mile has always been a challenge,” he said.

Although he didn’t know exactly when the work would start, Palmer said the planning is the most important part.

“We need to make sure that we get it right.”

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