By Ryan King
Community News Reporter
MARGAREE – FOX ROOST – Over the Jan. 8 weekend, some residents experienced technical issues with their internet service. It has become a common issue in rural communities on the Southwest coast, where many living in communities along Route 470 do not have access to high-speed fibre-optic packages from Bell Aliant.
Margaree resident Clifford Lillington was not even getting the speeds advertised for their slower packages.
“The internet is very slow, very poor. Yesterday my wife was on the internet watching the church service and I couldn’t even get on and do any searching. I had to wait for the service to get over and I’ve done a speed check onto it, which the speed check was 1.70 Mbps (megabits per second) download, upload is 0.43 Mbps,” said Lillington.
To put that into perspective, the cheapest package for Rural Wireless Home Internet on the Bell Aliant website advertises 25 Mbps download speeds and 5 Mbps uploads.
“It’s supposed to be high speed,” said Lillington, who also has the same issue at his cabin in the Codroy Valley.
“It’s supposed to be high speed up there too and I got 0.5 Mbps up there; not even one.”
Having reliable internet is important for Lillington, especially during Alert Level 4.
“I use the internet service for talking to my son out west, and for anything else like checking on Facebook and keeping in touch with family and friends. We got a son into Corner Brook, and we’ll have a little one coming later this year, and we want to see her too, or him.”
The internet is also invaluable for information on the pandemic.
“The wife always does the COVID status on the internet too, right? And sometimes that’s cutting in and out; pausing.”
A reliable connection is also required for Lillington’s work.
“I go away on the lakes. I’m gone two and three months at a time and I like to keep in touch with the wife sometimes, and sometimes I don’t even understand what she’s saying because the internet is that bad.”
Lillington offered that one solution could be to expand the more reliable fibre-optic network.
“I don’t know why they couldn’t run it down here either, down the coast.”
Isabelle Boulet is with Bell Media Relations and said that the company is actually doing just that.
“We invest more than any other communications company in network infrastructure in Newfoundland and Labrador. Network expansion in rural and sparsely populated regions is always a challenge for private investment alone. We also continue to participate in provincial and federal programs, such as the Universal Broadband Fund, to help accelerate broadband expansion into even more communities.”
Because of the pandemic, Boulet concedes there has been increased use of Bell’s existing network, but the corporate giant has announced an additional $1.7 billion to accelerate rollout of broadband fibre, 5G and rural networks. Meanwhile other factors can also play a role.
“Speeds will vary for individual customers, depending on how many devices in the home are connected, how they’re being used (multiple devices streaming video, for example) as well as the distance from our facilities. We encourage any customers experiencing issues to contact us so we can help.”
The recent spat of stormy weather hasn’t helped either.
“There were a few local impacts from the Atlantic storm this past weekend, but services were quickly restored,” stated Boulet.