Monday, Education Minister Zach Churchill announced $21 million for new school technology, including money to buy more Chrome Books for kids who might be forced to learn at home again if the pandemic spreads. Of course, many students still don’t have adequate high-speed internet service in rural communities.
Tuesday, Develop Nova scotia made an announcement indicating more projects to expand high-speed Internet are rolling out. Unfortunately they won’t be in time to help students during this school year. Or even next year.
Develop Nova Scotia announced a series of “scope expansions” to existing contracts which will provide access to an additional 6,700 homes and businesses. You can find more info about which communities here.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the critical importance of access to reliable, high-speed internet for business, education and leisure,” said Minister of Business Geoff MacLellan. “Across the province, people are working from home, students are learning from home and our small businesses are moving to increase their online presence. These changes have fundamentally changed the way our society operates. Equitable access to Internet is more important than it’s ever been.”
The province estimates it will be 2023 before 30 communities are connected through these “Nova Scotia Internet Initiative” projects.
“These agreements with pre-qualified internet service providers Mainland Telecom and Bell Canada will provide connections to approximately 30 small communities across the province with high-speed internet. Preparatory and engineering work will begin immediately on the contract extensions, and it is expected all homes and businesses covered by these extensions will have access to improved network by late 2023,” says the Develop Nova Scotia news release.
The Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust is investing $24 million in these projects, with leveraged funds of $9 million from other levels of government and the private sector.
“Our work continues with urgency to reach those remaining underserved residents and businesses across the province,” says Jennifer Angel, president and CEO of Develop Nova Scotia. “We know reliable connections are crucial to Nova Scotians for accessing critical services, growing business and overall quality of life. And removing this barrier to participation also helps us to attract people to Nova Scotia, in an emerging work from anywhere future. We will not quit until we get the job done.”
According to Develop Nova Scotia, since the first projects were announced in February 2020, 25% — approximately 21-22,0000 out of a total of 81,500 homes and businesses — now have the network in place to provide new or improved high-speed internet.
It has taken a long time to get this far.
Back in March 2018, more than $200 million from offshore natural gas revenues was put in a Nova Scotia Internet Trust Fund to bring high-speed to rural communities. About $193 million from the fund has been allocated.
Based on a recent back and forth with Develop NS, they are giving basically sole source contracts to individual companies. Basically divvying up NS and giving companies monopolies.
What they should have done was create the conditions in rural NS for all to compete. Im no expert but bringing the backbone to an area that makes delivering service cost effective for all companies.
I think we also need to consider the cost of having access at home – not everyone can afford hi-speed internet. According to a friend with a school-aged child that is what the school requires should online learning become necessary.
As someone living on a lower income – like many are – I know I wouldn’t have it at my home if I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of the people being helped by an organization. Perhaps the person who arranged this for me – who I know subscribes – will reply to my comment with further information.