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Federal government investing in rural connectivity in Central Nova

Central Nova MP Sean Fraser speaks to a crowd at the Blue Mountain Fire Hall on Thursday morning.
Central Nova MP Sean Fraser speaks to a crowd at the Blue Mountain Fire Hall on Thursday morning. - Adam MacInnis

BLUE MOUNTAIN, N.S. – As Sean Fraser and a staff member drove to Blue Mountain Thursday morning, they talked about possibly doing a Facebook live video of the announcement Fraser was about to make.

And then they pulled out their phones and realized there was no cell or internet connection.

In a way, it reiterated the need Fraser hopes the announcement will help address.

Fraser told the crowd gathered at the Blue Mountain Fire Hall that the Government of Canada is investing more than $413,000 to bring new or improved high-speed Internet services to MacPhersons Mills, Blue Mountain, the Garden of Eden areas and additionally to the Goshen, West Lochaber and North Lochaber areas. The project will expand DSL broadband (Up to 7Mbps download) to the communities. The provincial government, as well as Bell, are also contributing money to make the project happen.

The total investment for the Thorburn Fibre Backbone is $400,410 and will provide service for the communities of MacPherson Mills, Blue Mountain and Eden Lake. The total project cost for the Goshen Fibre Backbone is $152,800. That project will expand DSL broadband to 225 new homes near the communities of North Lochaber and West Lochaber.

Fraser said the goal is to have this project complete by 2021, but said they are confident it will be completed sooner.

This investment is about more than convenience, Fraser said, it’s also about sustaining life in rural communities.

It affects everything from businesses who need reliable Internet in order for their debit machines to work, to those trying to work from their home.

Anecdotally, he’s heard of people walking away from real estate deals after discovering that there was poor Internet service.

While it wasn’t on their official party platform, he committed to himself to make the issue a priority when he got to Ottawa, after hearing about it countless times while he was campaigning in Central Nova. When he got there, he found he wasn’t going to have to fight alone. Representatives from rural areas across Canada shared similar concerns and together they formed an informal caucus which spent more than a year talking about the issue.

He said he’s happy to see real steps being made to address the problem.

“This is the first step in what I hope is going to be a long-term plan to connect rural communities,” he said.

He hopes it will have real benefits for people not only operating businesses or working for home, but also just to improve the quality of life for those in rural communities.

“There’s no reason that rural communities shouldn’t have these same luxuries in the 21st century that urban communities have.”

Adrian VanBerkel lives in St. Joseph’s Antigonish County and recently sold some property.

“The couple that bought it were concerned about slow Internet,” he said. “They were coming here from Ottawa and they run a business out of their home.”

He compares the issue of getting adequate Internet service with the previous fight rural areas had to make to get private phone lines instead of party lines.

“This is no different.”

Pictou County councillor Randy Palmer was present for the announcement.

“I think it’s great for rural Pictou County and Antigonish,” he said. “It’s a big investment.”

Internet is so vital for everything today, he said, from emergency services to basic everyday life tasks.

“Now they’re going to have the opportunity to have the same benefits as everybody else.”

Blue Mountain resident Scott Green was glad to hear that a better Internet option is on the way. He said their current service has been spotty at best.

“Our tower’s right there, but it’s down more than it’s up.”

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