Annapolis County outlines $18-million fibre optic Internet backbone project


Published on May 16, 2017

This map shows the complete fibre optic Internet backbone to be built by Annapolis County and Mainland Telecom.

©Annapolis County

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - Warden Timothy Habinski said Annapolis County wasn’t going to sit around and wait to be rescued – so it’s building its own Internet. 

Residents in the municipality can expect Internet speeds among the fastest in the country in less than two years.

It’s important for municipalities as we plan our way forward to take responsibility for the things that happen in our community. We cannot simply wait on the assumption we will be rescued.

Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski

Details of an $18-million fibre optic Internet backbone project were released May 16 at council chambers with the project contingent upon provincial approval of a $13-million borrowing request that council itself okayed on April 28.

The plan was first announced last December and the county has brought in Mainland Telecom Inc., a Valley company, to build the backbone.

“It is no secret that one of the biggest problems facing rural communities right across the country is lack of Internet access,” said Habinski. “The implications of that lack have always been significant. It imposes a real impediment to immigration, it imposes an impediment to entrepreneurialism, it makes it very difficult for us to attract businesses, it makes it very difficult for us to keep businesses when they’re here.”

He said as the face of technology changes across the country, Internet capacity also has implications for health care, education, and to seek and keep employment. 

“There is no facet of our lives that is not touched by our ability to be connected digitally to the rest of the world,” Habinski said. “We have been aware of the necessity of taking this significant step on this issue for some time, and we’re delighted today is the day we’re finally able to announce what we’re doing.”

Those not reached directly by the fibre optic backbone, will be connected in a later phase of the project, Habinski said as he pointed to a map of the build. The plan is that every county resident will have access.

“It’s important for municipalities as we plan our way forward to take responsibility for the things that happen in our community,” said Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski as he detailed an $18-million Internet project in Annapolis County. “We cannot simply wait on the assumption we will be rescued.”

©Lawrence Powell

What To Expect

Habinski said residents can expect fibre optic Internet speeds to equal or exceed the highest internet speeds anywhere in Canada, with service to homes in the range of 1 gigabit down and 1 gigabit up.

“Final financing approval of our borrowing request is under review by the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs and we will know the outcome in the near future,” said Habinski. “The $13,000,000 dollars borrowed for backbone fibre will be paid back by a separate contract with Mainland Telecom Inc.”
The Annapolis County contribution is part of a funding formula that includes federal, provincial, and private sector contributions totaling almost $18,000,000.

“The strategic approach to this project required four components to be in place: developing a return-on-investment business case with Mainland Telecom, accessing Connect to Innovate funding, accessing provincial Department of Business funding, and possibly using federal gas tax funding when necessary and with the permission of our provincial Department of Municipal Affairs,” Annapolis County CAO John Ferguson said in a media release.

This map shows the southern part of the fibre optic Internet backbone to be built by Annapolis County and Mainland Telecom.

©Annapolis County

Take Responsibility

“Many of our councilors have agreed upon this as a basic principle of function,” said Habinski. “It’s important for municipalities as we plan our way forward to take responsibility for the things that happen in our community. We cannot simply wait on the assumption we will be rescued. We want to work in partnership with the federal government and in partnership with the provincial government but we have to take direct responsibility for the wellbeing of our own constituents.”

He said the county couldn’t assume that someone was going to come in and do it for them.

“And so we took decisive action on our own. That’s something to be proud of. We’re the first rural municipality in Nova Scotia to have made it this far,” said Habinski. “We’re going to see success, and we’re going to see our community connected. I think we’re going to see our competitive edge in terms of business increase profoundly. I think we’re going to see a dramatic impact on the quality of life our residents can anticipate. The implications go on and on.”

This map shows the northern part of the fibre optic Internet backbone to be built by Annapolis County and Mainland Telecom.

©Annapolis County

Mainland Telecom
Mainland was chosen by the county from a list of companies who responded to an Expression of Interest issued by the county more than a year ago. Ferguson said Mainland demonstrated the capability and expertise to design, build, and provide fibre optic Internet service to county homes and businesses.
“Every home or business on the route will be capable of 10 Gbps from day one, although 1 Gbps will be the standard offering,” said Chris Norman, Mainland’s chief technology officer. “Commercial offerings will also include high capacity wavelength services for any business requiring low latency and high capacity to any of the major international fibre hubs across the globe.”

Norman said the company is looking to the future and the Annapolis County design is for the long-term and with upgrade capability.
The fibre optic build is planned to begin during this year’s construction season and once the project is underway Mainland expects to have four separate crews working within Annapolis County. The fibre optic build is anticipated to take approximately 18 months.