'It's complicated': Internet service providers share challenges in rural P.E.I.

'It's complicated': Internet service providers share challenges in rural P.E.I.

Providing internet service on P.E.I. can be a challenge, but it's "extremely complicated" in rural areas, service providers told the provincial government during a meeting Wednesday.

"It's a desperate need for many people on the Island but it's not an easy answer to get it done," said Alesia Napier of Wicked EH.

And, she added, "when there's interference and fluctuations in the marketplace of government funding, that can be very disruptive."

"You want open competition but when one company might get funding that other companies aren't privilege to or don't win an RFP process, it could potentially put someone out of business."

In 2008, Bell Aliant was awarded a contract to provide broadband speeds of 1.5 Mbps to Island homes.

Last year, Xplornet was granted $1.6 million in federal funding to increase internet access on the Island. Xplornet vice president Charles Beaudet told CBC last April he expected 99 per cent of the Island would have internet speed of at least 5 Mbps by the end of 2017.

Xplornet was not at Wednesday's meeting due to travel restrictions.

Island internet service providers

But the standing committee on education and economic development did hear from Wicked EH, Air Tech Communications, PEI Monitoring and Eastlink.

Natalie MacDonald of Eastlink said one of the challenges is that in rural P.E.I., some houses are spread out over several kilometres before you get to a small town.

"As you build your network and as things change you can justify further expansions whether it's because of changes in improvements in the technology or maybe there's another expansion that happened recently that can justify interconnecting and expanding the network out further," she said.

"We continue to review our network and where are those opportunities."

'Upset the apple cart'

Napier said her company realizes it's a competitive market and they are up against big service providers. She believes providing a good product and good customer service will ultimately "win out," but when it comes to government funding, there's not one answer that's going to make everybody happy.

"If the government provides more funding, it's probably going to go to one specific company or companies and that's going to upset the apple cart for the other companies," she said.

"But on the other hand that might mean faster deployment to consumers on P.E.I."

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