From an economic disadvantage to the inaccessibility of services, the local chamber of commerce heard concerns from many in the business community surrounding high speed internet and cell phone service.
The Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce hosted a roundtable discussion on March 21 following a marketing presentation.
Alex Stevenson, the new president of the chamber, said they want to understand the issues around high speed internet in Tatamagouche and the surrounding area so as to affectively advocate on their behalf with the government.
“The issue really as we see it here is inadequate access to ultra-high speed internet is compromising the abilities of communities across the country to attract and retain businesses,” said Stevenson.
Both Michael Foote, of Appleton Chocolates, and Ishbel Munro, with Bridging the Gap, said they’ve had issues with internet at home.
Foote said he can’t do any business-related work at home as most times, his internet through Seaside at his residence has issues connecting. At his Main Street business, he’s able to use Bell.
“The internet connection is so unstable it’s actually dropping information in the connection,” he said, using downloading a large file as an example. “It’s having the ability to have a connected service. The weather makes so much of a difference, too, when you’re running off a tower, and there are too many possibilities for things to get lost in the meantime. It can cost money, time, and aggravation.
“I don’t do anything at home business-related because I just don’t trust the internet.”
Munro’s example was while working on her website recently, using Bell as her service provider.
“It was abysmal,” she said. “I could try and upload something, then I could go upstairs, make myself a cup of tea and come back down, and maybe wait another 10 seconds for it to do what it needed to. It was just extremely frustrating.”
Tri County Ford’s general manager Eric MacKeen said better high speed is available within the village but it does come with a higher cost.
“In the village, if you can afford to pay for it, you can get by. It’s more so the surround areas,” he said.
One of the other issues he says is equally as important in the area is cell phone coverage.
“If we don’t have internet, a lot of people have the data plans that will cover what you do on your cell phones. That’s equally as important, even for our sales people.”
He said his staff is able to visit a client’s home, show them a car, and start the paperwork on site.
“But only if we have internet. Or if we have cell phone service, we can tether to that. That’s as important.”
Owning Ebbett’s Meadow Brook Farm with her husband, Joe, Lorenda Ebbett said the communication mode in general all goes together.
“I think people’s biggest challenge here is to find an adequate system of communications,” she said.
Between internet, cell phones and a landline, some residents and business owners can’t bundle all their services together, as some providers don’t offer all services.
“In some places, you can get one service that is really good and one is not. You can’t do the package deals that companies offer – maybe you can’t get internet because it’s not available from that one company.”
Pricing inconsistencies are also an issue brought to the forefront, with Ebbett saying those with a landline in a rural area are often penalized with a higher price than someone living in a city where there is more competition.
This past September, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, issued a directive to close the broadband gap, said Stevenson.
The local chamber, he said, sent a joint letter with other chambers to reinforce some key priorities. He said the letter is also asking the province to share more information on an action plan to the CRTC’s directive.
He and others in the room said high speed internet is now becoming a necessity.
Cathy Covey knows all too well how important it is to people. It’s one of the top priorities for those looking for homes through Sunrise Brokerage and Sales Ltd.
“Sometimes I say yes, but have to say there’s no cell phone service,” she said, of when clients ask if a certain home has high speed internet available.
“Everybody uses their cell phone. If they’re not connected with a cell phone…that’s more important than internet actually. There are places on the 311 and 326 (highways) where there’s just nothing. The property values there are down because everybody wants to be connected.”
As the Colchester County councilor for the area, Mike Gregory said the issue is one the council continues to look at. One issue with the CRTC directive, he said, is that smaller providers are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to funding.
“They want the larger companies to be able to go in and use the infrastructure the smaller companies have, and the small companies are not getting any money for it,” he said.
“They’re not getting any money for what’s already in place. That’s not only here but it’s all over the province. That’s unfortunate.”