Feds, province investing in high-speed internet for rural P.E.I.

The provincial and federal governments are investing in broadband infrastructure that will bring high-speed internet to more rural parts of P.E.I.

This project will deliver high-speed internet to almost 30,000 residents through a combination of fibre and fixed wireless technologies.

Bernadette Jordan, federal minister of rural and economic development, and P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan made the announcement at a news conference in Tracadie Cross on Friday.

The federal government is contributing more than $33.1 million and the provincial government more than $3.5 million. The remainder, more than $37 million, will come from Bell Canada and Xplornet.

The province says once complete, the project will create new potential for innovation and economic development, helping business owners connect with new markets, allowing better access to services, and providing students with the ability to broaden their studies.

'Building for the future'

It was just a few years ago that Xplornet received federal funding to connect more Islanders to high-speed internet. But the speeds Xplornet was contracted to provide don't meet newer benchmarks that have been set by the CRTC, of 50 megabits per second download speeds, and 10 megabits per second upload speeds. 

"When we look at what happened in the past, that was in the past. We now have these standards that have to be met," said Jordan. 

Tim Wimborne/Reuters

"It's something that we're building for the future. This isn't just about what's good right now, this is about how we're going to grow into the next 20, 30 years." 

Latest in a number of commitments 

The province also previously had a plan to build a $30 million internet "backbone" cable across the Island — but scrapped that project in 2018, opting instead for this new plan, to provide funding to companies that came up with their own ideas and will build their own infrastructure.

MacLauchlan defended the progress P.E.I. has made to date when it comes to high-speed internet. 

"Prince Edward Island has, as of today, a standard of internet service in rural communities — believe it or not — that is superior to other provinces. But where we want to go is to have tip-to-tip, in every community, and in these underserved households, a service that is, by 2021, superior to the current high standards set by the CRTC."

Sarah MacMillan/CBC

The province says the funding for Bell and Xplornet will be disbursed as the companies meet performance and construction milestones.

The province says close to 6,000 homes and businesses should have access to the improved services by the end of this year, with service for all 30,000 underserved addresses by the end of 2021. 

More P.E.I. news