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EDITORIAL: High-speed internet chase

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.
Photo: Lawrence Powell

It’s starting to sound like a broken record.

Rural Islanders are getting reliable high-speed internet.

The most recent promise of high-speed internet to rural P.E.I. was made on March 15 in Tracadie Cross. Premier Wade MacLauchlan was on hand at the announcement for $74 million in funding for a project to finally solve the Island’s problem of servicing rural communities with reliable high-speed internet.

The province is only chipping in $3.5 million for this project. The bulk of the funding is from internet service providers Bell Canada and Xplornet ($37 million) and the federal government ($33 million). The province is also investing $10 million over the next five years for improvements to the internet service.

MacLauchlan explained that this was the government fulfilling its promise in the 2017 throne speech of “tip to tip,” province-wide high-speed internet service.

He further explained that this funding will make the Island “a national leader in internet quality.”

Of course, we’ve heard this before. In 2016, MacLauchlin promised Islanders the “best internet service in Canada” by the end of 2017.

And, the controversial 2008 deal with Bell Aliant was supposed to provide reliable, province-wide high-speed internet service by 2010.

Well, we missed that target as well.

So, we can forgive Islanders if they’re skeptical of last week’s newest promise.

We can also forgive Islanders for cringing at the thought of Bell being involved in another attempt to fix the problem.

The $8.3 million 2008 Bell deal to provide internet service turned into a soap opera after it was found out Bell was also contracted to provide the province’s telephone services exclusively until 2020. Critics also jumped on the fact that Bell got the contract without a tender being issued.

And yet, here we are again. It’s 2019 and we’re still looking for solutions to provide reliable province-wide internet service.

It’s starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf.

We hear the cry, come running. But no wolf. Over and over again until we stop believing the boy and ignore his cries.

In this case, we want the wolf (or high-speed internet) to actually show up, and sooner rather than later.

This latest investment affects 30,000 rural Island homes and businesses that are growing tired of waiting for reliable service.

The most recent promise of high-speed internet service rolled out to pockets of customers by 2021 is hardly a selling point for the province looking to attract newcomers to rural P.E.I.

It’s unfortunate that this has been muddled in politics because it’s a technical problem that requires a technical solution.

It’s costing businesses money and frustrating owners and residents.

Let’s get it right this time.

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