Innovation, Business and Rural Development Minister Susan Sullivan said that in the not-too-distant future, 98 per cent of the province’s population will have access to high-speed Internet service.
Wednesday’s announcement was partly a re-announcement of money that was already committed back in April, but $3.3 million in new money will increase Internet services for about 2,700 households in rural parts of the province.
“A modern telecommunications system, as we all know, is vital in many aspects of education, health care, business and community life, particularly in rural areas,” Sullivan said. “With this investment, we will actually exceed our goal to have 95 per cent of the province covered by broadband.”
Dale Squires, of Ottawa-based EION Wireless, said the communities which are being hooked up now are typically the most challenging cases due to geography.
Moreover, he said the wireless system that will give Internet access to remote communities is sufficiently flexible to serve a variety of different functions in remote communities.
“We’re installing Internet that’s going to surpass the capability of what’s in the urban environment of most countries,” he said. “The Internet that we’re putting in here will be targeted and customized to the end users in these towns based on what their needs are.”
Burgeo Broadcasting System, Great Northern Wireless and Bell Aliant will also connect communities with funding from the government.
Both Squires and Tom Cutler from Burgeo Broadcast System talked about the value of broadband Internet when it comes to economic opportunities in rural parts of the province.
“I’m a true believer of rural Newfoundland, and as a rural constituent, I have first-hand experience of life before and after broadband, and it can be a great disadvantage to running a competitive business,” Cutler said.
Squires said growing up, he felt that he had to leave Newfoundland to pursue a career in technology. These days, he said, “my life right now is based on cellphones and laptops.”
If young people have access to the great wide world of the Internet, they can live anywhere, he said — including small-town Newfoundland.
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons really didn’t have anything to criticize Wednesday, except that the government isn’t doing something similar with cellphone service.
“There’s a lot of people out there that are hoping they’re covered,” he said. “I’m happy to see the broadband where it is, but there’s still a deficiency when it comes to cell service in this province.”