Resident 'not very impressed' with Shelburne's rural internet plan

Mary Nickerson of Upper Clyde in Shelburne County, N.S., says she limits her internet use to email and Facebook  because she has no choice.

Streaming movies is out of the question. Eastlink's Rural Connect signal provides some wireless coverage in her area, but it doesn't reach her home.

"My neighbour across the road has it," she said. "But she's up on a hill."

Rural internet initiative

Nickerson and her husband use a Bell Turbo Hub, which works like a cellphone data plan. Using that to stream movies would be too expensive, she said.

When the province announced the Nova Scotia High-Speed Rural Internet Initiative this week, Nickerson said she had high hopes for better wireless service. Under the program the Municipality of the District of Shelburne received $75,000.

Other communities in the province got a similar amount of funding. Most of those communities — like the neighbouring Yarmouth and Queens counties — plan to spend it on building new towers to extend access to Eastlink's Rural Connect wireless service.

FibreOp extension

But not Shelburne.

"I was expecting they'd get a tower up this way that would reach more people," Nickerson said.

Instead of more towers, Shelburne is teaming up with Bell to extend FibreOp to the Shelburne Industrial Park and the communities of Sandy Point and Jordan Falls.

The cable is expected to reach 340 homes and business.

'Not very impressed'

What angers Nickerson is that these homes and businesses already enjoy decent wireless internet service.

"I'm not very impressed," Nickerson said. "I understand what they're doing. They're hoping that they're going to make it a draw for business. But there's no way we can work at home or anything because it's unreliable."

The municipality is asking for patience.

"We're currently working with Bell Canada on a Phase 2 project," said Chris McNeill, the CAO for the Municipality of the District of Shelburne.

Better internet coming eventually

Phase 2, he said, involves applying for federal funding to provide fibre-op internet service to half of the municipality's 2,635 homes and businesses.

"I understand people are frustrated with the level of infrastructure, with the internet service that they're receiving now," McNeill said. "But the municipality is being very aggressive to try to advance it in the community but we have to advance it in a logical way."

McNeill said Phase 2 will cost about $1.5 million. The municipality is offering to cover about 20 per cent of the cost. The rest would come from Bell Canada and the federal government under its Connect to Innovate program.

The municipality will apply for the funding within two weeks and it should find out if it qualifies by early summer.