The Prince Edward Island government is seeking proposals from internet service providers to bring high-speed internet to underserved rural areas, in a move that looks to bring the province’s internet up to modern speeds.
According to CBC News, PEI launched a request for proposals (RFP) on August 31, 2018, seeking companies to bring “reliable high-speed broadband internet services to underserved rural and urban areas of PEI,” states the document. About 31,000 civic addresses are deemed underserved in the province.
According to Economic Development Minister, Chris Palmer, he says the provincial and federal governments will partially fund internet service providers seeking to build out rural areas.
“In places where the density and number of customers just aren’t there for the payback — because the infrastructure requirement is sometimes very significant — it’s harder for them to make money,” said Palmer.
By the end of 2021, 90 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses are expected to have minimum download speeds of 50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10 Mbps, as mandated by the CRTC.
PEI says they are not looking for one solution, but is open to smaller companies to submit bids as well to focus on smaller areas or communities.
“My expectation would be there will be a number of ISPs that will receive awards during this, and their work can all start at the same time,” added Palmer.
Back in 2008, Bell Aliant was awarded a controversial contract without public tender, with promises to bring high-speed internet throughout the province by 2010. However, the contract only required Bell to bring DSL speeds offering up to 1.5 Mbps. The deal also meant Bell Aliant would have an exclusive telephone services contract with the government, until 2020.
In October 2016, Bell Aliant officials told the province they had no plans to offer faster internet, as their contractual obligations were already met. If the province wanted high-speed internet, it would require government participation in funding.
Mark Duggan, senior manager of communications for Bell Aliant, told the province’s legislative Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development (via The Guardian), “Obviously we recognize that 1.5 doesn’t meet (some) particular needs, but for a lot of our customers, it does,” adding, “It’s our standard, introductory level speed, not just here in P.E.I., but across Atlantic Canada. For a lot of customers, it meets their needs.”
Kevin Fournier, director of sales for Nova Scotia and P.E.I. at Bell Aliant, said to the committee at the time, “We’re at that point now where we don’t see any other new locations as economically viable to service with the new technologies like the fibre op. That would be millions and millions of dollars again to make that investment and there’s simply not a return on that.”
“We are here to make a profit,” added Fournier.
How’s your internet connection and speeds right now in PEI?