Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Residents of the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) who have been suffering from slow or no internet service now have high-speed service to enjoy or look forward to.
According to a news release recently issued by the municipality, Bell Canada has completed work it undertook over the spring and summer and was hooking up approximately 1,273 households. Another 74 households are on deck to be hooked up shortly.
This brings the total to about 1,347 households with high-speed internet running at about 100 Mbps (megabits per second) in Central (936) and North Queens (411).
RQM Mayor David Dagley hailed it as a massive and needed project for the municipality.
"It's absolutely huge. It's critical to the residents to have this," he said. "We have worked as council for more than three years. Now we are seeing it pay off."
The municipality earmarked $1 million in its 2020 budget for internet service expansion, "and it was the best decision we have ever made with taxpayers' money," said the mayor.
Homes in parts of Labelle, Caledonia, Westfield, Harmony Mills and Buckfield now can receive internet with speeds of up to 100 Mbps.
This was the first phase of the Bell project, Fibre to the Home Footprint Expansion, that was approved in February 2020 with funding through the provincial government's Internet for Nova Scotia Initiative, a program managed by Develop Nova Scotia.
RQM contributed $435,500 to the $1.9 million project, Develop Nova Scotia $487,000, and Bell Canada funded the balance.
To initiate the project, last year RQM directed $64,500 towards installing fibre backbone along Highway 210 in Central Queens and Highway 8 in North Queens.
Dagley lamented that the federal program, Connect to Innovate, was merely looking for a minimum standard of internet to be installed in rural areas.
"That upset me," he said, explaining, "we could not build on that type of internet line and expand. So we asked Bell to upgrade to fibre optic and RQM funded that increase. I think that was the right decision, and the only one that would work for residents."
A second phase of the project will enable more homes to be hooked up, however details are not yet available.
"We identified holes in that first phase. It was a lot of work for Bell to go out and determine if power lines were running in every area, what the tree cover was, what the distances were," explained Dagley. "It wasn't just about putting in a bid, you have to know what it's going to cost you. Develop Nova Scotia wanted to know a lot of details and Bell just couldn't get it all in for the first application, so there will be a second phase and that was approved by Develop NS," said Dagley.
This second phase will expand coverage in Central and North Queens taking the cable as far as Pleasant River, North Brookfield, farther into West Caledonia, along Molega Road, Wildcat Reserve, Greenfield and down to the Medway River area.
It will also include under-serviced homes in places such as Port Joli, Port L'Hebert and St. Catherines River Road.
According to Dagley, the plan is to have the work on the second phase completed by late spring, 2021.