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West Hants residents deal with lack of high speed access

Sherri Parker, who lives in Ashdale, says her internet is so slow that she will often travel to Windsor when she needs to download items to her computer. She’s hoping that recent rural internet announcements could lead to faster speeds in her community.
Sherri Parker, who lives in Ashdale, says her internet is so slow that she will often travel to Windsor when she needs to download items to her computer. She’s hoping that recent rural internet announcements could lead to faster speeds in her community. - Colin Chisholm

‘I’d love to watch Netflix, but I just can’t’

Sherri Parker clicks the big green ‘Go’ button for an internet speed test on her iPad.

The results aren’t great.

It shows a download speed of approximately 7.88 megabytes per second and only 0.95 upload.

“I’ve been through a couple of providers and none of them were very quick, they were almost useless,” Sherri says with a laugh. “I have satellite (Xplornet) internet now, which is a little quicker, but it’s still not great.”

Sherri lives in Ashdale, just outside of Brooklyn. The lack of high-speed internet has been an issue for her family for years.

“I’d love to watch Netflix here, but I just can’t,” she said. “When my kids were younger, when they wanted to download music or do homework, they’d have to go to Windsor.”

Windsor is approximately 20 minutes away from their home.

Read More: West Hants rural internet speeds expected to get a boost 

$26.4 million in funding announced for high-speed internet

“I have a son who works in P.E.I. and he was home for a weekend and had to bring work home with him,” she said. “Our internet wasn’t good enough for him to do his work and he ended up going back to P.E.I. early.”

Sherri said if she needs to download something from the internet, she’ll often go to her mother’s house in Windsor. It’s just easier that way.

“My son, Nick Parker, has played hockey for the last number of years. He played in the QMJHL, Junior A and at U P.E.I., and his games would be streamed online,” she said. “We could get on, but then it would just buffer and be about an hour behind, so we’d go to Windsor to watch him.”

And, she says, the lack of high speed internet is keeping young people out of the community.

“It is a necessity. My son would like to come back here and live in this community someday, but he’s an accountant, is 25, and really couldn’t do without it,” she said.

Sherri is a director at the Hants Community Hospital and is unable to bring work home because of her internet connection.

No signal

And it’s not just their home internet causing grief; their cell service also leaves a lot to be desired.

Ross Parker, Sherri’s husband, runs a pool service business, but he will often have to drive up the road to send and receive email.

“If I want to text or email somebody, I have to go for a drive,” Ross said. “It’s pretty hard to run a business that way.”

Even the simplest thing requires so much effort, he laments.

With the current situation, Ross hasn’t bothered to set up a website to grow his business.

The Parkers said they’ve been told faster internet could come to their community, but they’ve heard that promise before.

“We were told that cable TV would be everywhere, but we can’t get that either,” Sherri said. “We’ve been to the Dominican Republic and Cuba and have had better internet service.”

A necessity

David Bannerman is the owner of Media Voice, a voiceover studio based in Newport in West Hants. He’s one of the lucky few in West Hants that does have access to high-speed internet.

“I do have access to higher speed cable internet at the moment, but I know a lot of people who do not,” Bannerman said. “One of the interesting things about this area is that there are a lot of artisans who work in this area and many of them use (the internet) for the transfer of samples or artwork.”

Bannerman’s current speed, through Eastlink High-Speed cable, allows for 100 megabytes per second, but he says he rarely gets those speeds. It’s usually closer to 50, but still much higher than most surrounding areas.

He’s hoping that if fibre internet is expanded in West Hants, he’ll be able to access even higher speeds.

Bannerman’s company transfers a lot of large files on a regular basis, which requires a lot of time and bandwidth.

“My company is basically run on the internet,” he said. “All of the parties, clients and vendors that I work with are all internet-based. So, it’s imperative to me that I have a really, really good internet connection.”

For more home-based businesses to set up and grow in West Hants, he believes the high-speed internet service will need to spread quickly to more areas.

He’s hopeful that recent high-speed announcements will bear fruit for the area, especially for nearby schools like West Hants Middle School and Brooklyn Elementary.

“There are two factors that I think are directly related to growth in this area, one of them is water and the second is internet speed,” he said. “For me, I almost didn’t move here because we didn’t have high speed at the time, it ended down the street. But, over time, it moved up the street and we had it, but it was potentially a deal breaker.”

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