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Getting connected in rural Nova Scotia

Annapolis County Councillor Gregory Heming says there are different scenarios and alternative technologies that can bring high speed internet to rural areas. This month he’ll be putting a motion before council that staff research the prospect of a municipally owned internet service.
Annapolis County Councillor Gregory Heming says there are different scenarios and alternative technologies that can bring high speed internet to rural areas. This month he’ll be putting a motion before council that staff research the prospect of a municipally owned internet service.

DELAPS COVE - About 130 people attended a July 30 meeting organized to petition for better internet and cell phone service. Meeting organizers Kay Whelan and Annapolis County Councillor Gregory Heming say it was a fun meeting with good conversation. Both were happy with the turnout, estimating that more than 100 people came out to sign the petition.

“The meeting started with great music, great food, and lively conversation,” said Heming. “It was a full house, standing room only.”

The meeting was originally called to discuss the need for cell phone coverage in communities along the shore now not serviced with cell phone towers, but the conversation quickly expanded to include the topic of poor internet service in rural areas.

He added that he personally experienced this frustration when he needed to upgrade his computer operating system.  Instead of simply upgrading the system with a download at home, he needed to drive his computer to Kentville.

“The meeting started with great music, great food, and lively conversation,” said Heming. “It was a full house, standing room only.”

The meeting was originally called to discuss the need for cell phone coverage in communities along the shore now not serviced with cell phone towers, but the conversation quickly expanded to include the topic of poor internet service in rural areas.

He added that he personally experienced this frustration when he needed to upgrade his computer operating system.  Instead of simply upgrading the system with a download at home, he needed to drive his computer to Kentville.

Had he tried to download the upgrades with his home internet connection, it would take nearly a full day. In Kentville, the same download takes about 10 minutes.

 

No Signal

Kay Whelan says her moment to take action happened recently during a trip to Delaps Cove Trail. One of the children was injured and because cell phones wouldn’t work (and no one had brought a vehicle), a tourist needed to drive a member of the group to a spot where cell service was available.

“Maybe 10 years ago we would have accepted something like that,” she said. “But in this day and age, it’s not acceptable. Cellphones are no longer just a matter of convenience.”
Inadequate internet and cell phone coverage affect small businesses, and it also affects the real estate market. Increasingly people are expecting these services and will not consider moving into areas that don’t offer internet and cell phone service.

She added that when they voiced their concerns to the Premier, he asked them to gather names. They decided to go with old-style signature petitions partly because they seem to carry more weight than online petitions.

She added the group has handed out extra copies of the petition to circulate to people who weren’t able to attend the meeting. The petition was also broadened to include the demand for better internet service.

 

Premier On Board

“I know the Premier is on board with this and is taking an interest. This is his riding and I know he’ll recognize some of the names on this petition,” she said.

Heming added he thinks Eastlink’s plan to cap usage probably angered people into taking an interest and he is encouraged by the response at the meeting. They discussed various service models that are working in other communities that don’t rely on private companies.

As part of his role on the county’s economic development committee, he says he has looked at how other communities have resolved this problem and he believes there are real solutions that can be implemented here quickly.

He added that he believes one of the best scenarios could involve a partnership between the province and Municipality of the County of Annapolis to create a community owned system.

“In August, I’ll be putting a motion before council that staff research the prospect of a municipally owned internet service in the county,” he said. “There are different scenarios we can consider, and alternative technologies.”

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