Intervention: Region of Queens Municipality (Intervenor 268)

Document Name: 2015-134.223966.2394433.Intervention(1fbk101!).html

The Mayor and Council of the Region of Queens Municipality are extremely concerned with the economic development of our county in a time where traditional industries are declining, and the knowledge economy is on the rise. Many people would now consider internet access to be an essential service and potential residents are being dissuaded from considering Queens County as a place to come and live, or to come and start a business, because of the lack of adequate internet provision in our prime communities. Retaining residents and business owners, especially young folk, is negatively impacted similarly. Rural areas have always had to fight for a level playing field in service availability, and the realm of robust, high-speed access to the internet is no different.The Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia Initiative (2007) granted one service provider to create a wireless network for our area, but the technology chosen has proven to be inadequate in the intervening years. The project never reached the 100% of households as was intended, and the speed and reliability of service provoked many complaints from the outset. That service provider has just announced plans to cap data and charge for usage over a minimal limit. The issue is twofold; firstly, for many residents and businesses there is no alternative option, and secondly, there is no distinction between residential and business accounts. Business users would be prepared to pay a little more if the service level was commensurate.The recent announcement of federal money supporting the Connecting Canadians project under the Digital Canada 150 initiative, whilst surely welcome elsewhere, resulted in no bidders to improve internet access standards in south-western Nova Scotia. We are left with an inadequate service and no immediately obvious options for resolution.We would comment that 5Mbps is only barely adequate as a minimum level of internet speed, we should be future-proofing at a much higher level. Likewise, standards for data usage should be established to take into account the integrated nature of internet use in 2015. Internet provision in rural areas, cannot be dependent on private companies establishing a business case – the distributed nature of communities will always put these areas at a severe disadvantage and the digital divide will only grow larger.