COVID-19 has prompted accelerated delivery of high-speed internet to some overlooked or underserviced areas of Nova Scotia. Not quite two months after Premier Stephen McNeil allocated $15 million to speed up the project, the crown corporation overseeing the effort is boasting it has shaved six months off the original timetable for the first phase of installations and is on pace to build 19 towers within 100 days in Cumberland and Colchester counties.
“The importance of high-speed internet for Nova Scotians is pressing. We engaged our internet service provider partners to help solve this critical challenge with ingenuity and urgency and we are seeing results,” maintains Jennifer Angel, chief executive officer of Develop Nova Scotia, which is tasked with developing infrastructure and “high-potential property” in the province.
The first phase of the work will allow up to 18,000 homes and businesses to connect to wired or wireless technologies, while access for another 24,000 is expected to be “substantially complete” within 12 months. That will expand province-wide internet coverage to about 86 per cent of the population — up from the current 70 per cent.
Ultimately, the government has pledged that at least 95 per cent of province will enjoy access to high-speed internet. That goal was seeded with $193 million when the Nova Scotia Internet Funding Trust was created in 2018, but the cost of required investment has been projected in the range of $300 to $500 million. Another request for proposals (RFP) process is now underway, with a new round of projects expected to be announced in August.
“We’re confident we can meet and exceed this goal, working to get as close to 100 per cent as possible,” Develop Nova Scotia reports. “There are now 15 pre-qualified providers that are eligible to respond to this, and future RFPs. Having more organizations to bid on solutions will increase options for solutions and potentially open the door for more evolving technologies.”