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West Hants residents struggling with poor Internet speeds

Funding to improve Internet access in many rural areas of the province was announced March 27.
Funding to improve Internet access in many rural areas of the province was announced March 27.

WEST HANTS, N.S. — “If someone’s on Facebook, I can’t watch Netflix.”

Rural Internet — just putting those two words together, you get a sense it’s probably not great. But for the people who live with it, the horror stories are even worse than you might expect.

Jaimie Murphy, a business owner in Upper Vaughan, said her Internet speeds make even the simplest of online tasks a challenge.

“I have to be on the computer all the time and about 80 per cent of that time or higher I need the Internet,” Murphy said.

Murphy offers IT solutions to small and medium sized businesses, which means she uses the Internet a lot. But her service isn’t doing her any favours with a speed of up to 1.5 megabytes a second.

“Instead of something taking me only 15 minutes on high speed fibre to upload, here it takes close to an hour to upload a file for a client,” she said. “The fact that our kids are coming home and requiring the Internet for homework, and if I’m on the Internet, my daughter can’t (be) at the same time.”

The only Internet service provider in her area is Bell, which Murphy describes as a monopoly.

She says part of the community, up to Camp Mockingee, receives up to 7.5 megabytes per second, but go south of that and it dips to 1.5 per second.

“We’ve been told they’re not going to extend that,” she said.

Still, Murphy said she’s encouraged to see the government at the provincial level is making this a priority.

“Growth in this area is an important thing,” she said. “Studies are great, but I’d like to see real work and some action along with a study. If we want small business to grow, it’s vital to invest in Internet in rural areas.”

The more densely populated communities of Windsor and Hantsport have faster, more consistent connections speeds.

Data caps

Orland Chad MacDonald, who lives in Centre Burlington, uses Eastlink’s rural Internet service called Rural Connect and says the usage cap, 15 gigabytes a month, is a major disadvantage.

“We just bought our house here two years ago. We lived in Mt. Denson before, and we had basically no options for Internet here,” MacDonald said. “Basically, it’s either Eastlink rural or satellite, and we didn’t want to go with satellite because it has terrible latency issues.”

MacDonald said once you go over the 15 gigabyte cap, you’re automatically charged $2 per gigabyte, up to $20.

His Internet bill in Mt. Denson was around $50, but now in Centre Burlington, it’s usually $70 for a much slower speed.

“Once you are beyond your cap, your Internet speed drops out and it’s basically useless,” he said.

MacDonald said he usually hits the cap half way through the month.

MacDonald and his father run a business and he says he uses the Internet a lot for business purposes, but the slow speeds hinder that.

“We tried to use Netflix, because it’s a cheaper alternative to cable, and some nights it will just buffer every three minutes,” he said. “My girlfriend wanted to work from home, having a newborn baby, but you could never run a business from home because of the Internet.”

When asked if he’d like to see the government invest more in rural Internet, MacDonald said “it’s just a must-have nowadays.”

A tough sell

Angela Doucet, a resident of Falmouth, said she can’t access Internet at all because of where she lives.

“We don’t have any Internet. Eastlink has been to our house a couple of times to do a survey, but they keep telling us there’s nothing they can do,” Doucet said. “We would have to build a pony wall in our yard and cut down a lot of old growth trees, which we don’t really want to do.”

Doucet said she lives on a private road, and even satellite Internet would necessitate cutting down trees for service.

“We’re hoping the province will eventually bring wired Internet to where we live,” she said. “We can’t get anything yet.”

To make matters more complicated, Doucet said she’s trying to sell her house, but a total lack of Internet options is a tough sell to prospective buyers.

The provincial government announced they were investing in rural internet upgrades, including one project that would bring a fibre network to Brooklyn.  

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