The community centre in Breadalbane will have high-speed internet after all as part of the P.E.I. government’s internet plan.
The centre is used for community events and houses the local public library. In emergencies, it also serves as a shelter.
The provincial internet plan, also called the Bell Fibre plan, did not include a fibre optic internet connection to the centre located on the Dixon Road in a provincial map as recently as Jan. 21.
“This is an emergency shelter when the power goes out,” said Breadalbane’s deputy mayor Irene Novaczek. “It’s really, really important that our internet service in this hall never goes out; that when the generator’s on, the internet is on and people have access. Because sometimes our phone doesn’t even work, and cell phone service is also very spotty in this area. So that makes reliable, publicly accessible, free internet extremely important for health and safety in the area.”
The Bell Fibre plan maps out service along the main road, but lines end at the top of Hilltop Road just metres from — and within sight of — the library windows.
An internet upgrade to the library was critical just to function, said area resident Joanie Sutton.
“They’ve had terrible internet service. It’s down so much of the time,” she said. “They have to write everything down.”
Sutton used to be the librarian in Breadalbane when the provincial community access program was operating, providing computer and internet access at locations across the Island.
“It was fantastic,” said Sutton.
“There were kids in here using the computers every day the library was open,” said Novaczek.
“I was booked solid,” said Sutton.
“Kids doing research, doing homework, talking to each other. It was a really valuable community resource. We were so sad when they cancelled the program,” said Novaczek. “The assumption was that everybody had their own internet, and it wasn’t necessary at the library anymore and that’s just not true in rural P.E.I.
“And it’s not just us.” When Sutton saw the map on Jan. 21 showing that the hall would not be hooked up to the Fibre Op service, she reached out to Novaczek who called MLA Brad Trivers. Trivers spoke to the department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture, which took up the issue with Bell.
On Monday, Trivers called The Guardian to say there will indeed be Bell Fibre Op at the community centre.
“I am thrilled,” said Sutton. “And we are really very thankful.”
Alison Jenkins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Journal-Pioneer