High-speed internet and cellphone services are still sketchy for residents and businesses in many rural areas of Shelburne County.
In the Municipality of Barrington, “If you live out of the core area of Barrington and Cape Sable Island, internet is an issue,” said Warden Eddie Nickerson. “Residents in Forbes Point, Woods Harbour, Shag Harbour, Bear Point, Baccaro, Port Clyde, Thomasville… they all don’t have the internet speed they should have.”
Warden Nickerson said the municipality has “some irons in the fire and are working towards a solution to provide more households with high-speed internet. There are several options we’re working on. We’re waiting for information to come back. Hopefully, something will come up in the next few months we can start moving on.”
With both federal and provincial monies available to improve broadband service, Warden Nickerson said he’s “very optimistic” there will be good news coming.
“It’s a priority with every level of government which makes me optimistic,” he said. “All three levels understand it needs to be done.”
One initiative the Municipality of Barrington - along with the municipalities of Digby, Yarmouth and Argyle are part of - is an application for federal funding by the Western Regional Enterprise Network (REN) for a possible internet solution for western Nova Scotia.
Fibre broadband project moving ahead
In eastern Shelburne County, the Municipality of Shelburne is ready to move ahead with its Fibre to the Home (FTTH) multi-phase broadband project.
The four-phase project was started in 2016, with phase 1 connecting 343 premises with fiber broadband in the areas of Highway 203 in Ohio; Sandy Point, Jordan Falls, and the Shelburne Marine Industrial Park. The $430,000 project was financially supported by the municipality ($247,500), Bell Aliant ($107,500) and the provincial government ($75,000).
Phase 2 is ready to go, with confirmation of a successful application to the federal government’s Connect to Innovate program received in May 2018. Once the contract between the federal government and Bell Aliant for the funding award has been finalized, work can commence.
The second phase of the project will provide 36.9 kilometres of backbone fiber from Gunning Cove through to Northeast Harbour and is being funded with contributions from the municipality ($50,000), Bell Aliant ($51,000) and the federal government ($300,000).
The third phase consists of a plan to provide fiber internet coverage to approximately 2,473 premises (70 per cent of residents) at a total cost of approximately $3,609,240. Bell Aliant will contribute $1,605,886 to the project, with the municipality responsible for the balance of $2,003,354. The municipality currently has $890,030 budgeted for phase 3 and will be seeking federal and provincial funding for the remaining $1,113,324.
The fourth phase of the project involves the expansion of the fibre internet coverage proposed in phase 3 to an additional 754 residents for a total cost of $1,645,904, with the municipality contributing $248,000, Bell Aliant, $490,000, and government sources chipping in $907,904.
The remaining residents not connectable by optical fibre are fully identified but can only be reached by wireless connection. A separate proposal is being prepared to address these approximately 50 to 100 residents. To complete wireless coverage is expected to cost around $400,000.
The municipality is hoping to tap into the $194-million Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust to round out the needed government source funding for phases 3 and 4. The trust is being administered by Develop Nova Scotia.