Rural Internet Project

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Municipality of Pictou County is disappointed it was denied provincial government funding for rural high-speed internet project

The Municipality of Pictou County has been developing a high-speed internet network for the past three years that will deliver high quality and affordable internet service to our residents.

“It essential for the rural areas of Pictou County to be treated the same as other areas of the County when it comes to modern communication. Our residents require this service for business operations, education, health and even entertainment. With COVID0-19 and the recent tragedies in Northern Nova Scotia, modern communication infrastructure is more than a convenience, it can be the difference between life and death,” said Warden Robert Parker.

The Municipality decided to build and operate its own network, mainly because it wanted the entire Municipality to have access to high-speed internet. In the past, some of the large companies have delivered service where enough homes are clustered, leaving many less densely populated areas unserviced simply because it is not profitable.

It will cost millions of dollars to build the network and the County had been planning on its share of both provincial and federal funding to offset some of the capital cost. Both levels of government, have set aside large blocks of money to promote projects to help deliver the essential service. Federal applications are pending, and the County is working closely with Central Nova MP Sean Fraser to help secure these funds.

The provincial government put the high-speed internet money in the Nova Scotia Internet Trust Fund and appointed Develop Nova Scotia (DNS) to recommend projects to the trust. DNS, in turn, set up a competition for qualified bidders to bid for the dollars. The Municipality of Pictou County was advised that it was the successful bidder based upon our submission and was to negotiate for the project and the dollars. No negotiations took place rather DNS reevaluated the submission and eventually, the County was informed that they had been dropped from first place to second place. The reason given was that the County had listed too many homes as underserved. The County listed 11,500 unserved, DNS said that only 5500 were unserved and wanted the County to greatly reduce the size of its project.

“That is really what it is all about, DNS wanted us to reduce our project but we couldn’t, we had made a commitment to all our people and we are determined to keep that commitment,” said Warden Parker.

The County insists that the number of unserved homes is much greater than DNS numbers show, and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s numbers are much closer to the County.

The Provincial Government of Nova Scotia has said that Pictou County will receive none of the trust money set aside for the very type of project that it is determined to deliver. DNS has clearly stated that if the Municipality backs away from its project, there would be provincial money available to other proponents to deliver the same service in Pictou County.

“For whatever reason, the numbers just seem to be an excuse, the provincial government, using DNS, seems determined that our Municipality should not receive a fair share of funding for this critically important project, but funding would be available if the network is run by others,”  he said.

An appeal was made to Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan to examine the fairness of this decision, knowing DNS was brand new at the internet business and mistakes could be made. Minister MacLellan met with County representatives in early January and seemed to understand the situation and promised to investigate it and report back. Despite many letters of support from neigbouring urban municipalities, Pictou County Regional Enterprise Network, Pictou County Chamber of Commerce and private businesses, the Municipality has received no response from the Minister.

"It seems like a dead-end road. What is most disappointing is not to hear back from a Provincial Minister of Business, when business in our County would benefit so much from this project. We have asked them to work co-operatively with us. Our County is still committed to continuing this project without provincial funding. However, it is very disappointing that Pictou County is left out by the provincial government, with no funds from the $193 million dollar trust coming to our Municipality," said Warden Parker.


 

Internet Project FAQ

Do you have questions about the rural internet project? Check out our FAQ here and see if some of them can be answered.  internet-project-FAQ.pdf


Now more than ever, we understand the need for broadband in our community. COVID-19 is bringing to everyone’s attention to the importance of connectivity and online communication. Our rural broadband project is still in the early stages of the process. We wanted to inform you that due to COVID-19, there might be delays to the desired timeline. These trying times have solidified the need for a strong connection and moving forward, we are doing our absolute best to ensure this project continues smoothly.  We hope you are staying safe and we will keep you updated should there be any further changes.



April 3, 2020

MOPC Broadband Network: Request to do Internet Performance Test

The COVID-19 pandemic has made more people than ever aware of the importance of a broadband network for communities in sustaining economic and social activity and equality. We are being asked to change how we live, work and how we communicate in an environment of uncertainty, anxiety and fear, as the pandemic is one of the greatest challenges we have faced. It is also an opportunity for us as people and communities to rise above the challenge and come out stronger than ever. This crisis, which has forced us to work, educate and communicate using technology from home, has highlighted the critical need and inequity of rural broadband in a very real way. 

The CIRA Internet Performance Test (IPT) is a tool used to collect data on the performance of Internet connections in Canada. Analysis for MOPC, and Atlantic Canada is conducted by i-VALLEY and the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).  i-VALLEY is MOPC’s partner in the planning of a new broadband network, and CIRA is the non-profit agency that manages Canada’s .ca country-code domain registry that helps build, deploy and manage technology to support initiatives to build smart communities.

To run the test, people in their home or business go to the URL https://performance.cira.ca/pictou from their web browser. Click on “Allow Location Access” if your browser asks “Will you allow performance.cira.ca to access your location?”, click on the “Start” button (do not enter your Postal Code even if it displays wrong), follow the directions to move the PIN to their test location and within seconds analysis is done of more than 100 variables that range from speed to quality of their Internet connection.

The IPT results are displayed for the test on a community map in the municipality, colour-coded to highlight speed and service quality.  A red zone is poor; a blue zone is good. The IPT ranges from zero to the new national speed goal of 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) download. 

For those without any Internet connection, and when they are out of COVID-19 isolation, you can go to an Internet-connected facility, browse to the Pictou IPT Web site, and click on “If you wish to inform us of a location without internet access, click here.” They will then have the opportunity to move the PIN on the map to their location without Internet connectivity.

The tests are location-specific, registering each test as the buttons are pressed for analysis in planning the MOPC broadband network.  People are encouraged to take the test as many times as possible, as speed and performance results will vary over times of day.

The CIRA test is better than most speed tests because it is not run on servers located directly on the backbone of an Internet Service Provider's network, but on vendor-neutral test servers.  It will show the real condition of the network.

Please click on this link to run the Pictou County Internet Performance Test:

https://performance.cira.ca/pictou

Updated March 3, 2020

Funding approved for phase one of Municipality of Pictou County’s rural internet project

PICTOU, NS – The Municipality of Pictou County has committed funding to phase one of its rural internet project.

Council recently approved $11 million to the first phase of its rural internet project that could see residents in the areas of Lyons Brook, Hardwood Hill, Abercrombie, and Granton have access to high-speed internet in 2020. A consortium led by Nova Communications was chosen to perform the engineering planning and network construction.

Municipality of Pictou County Warden Robert Parker said council has made a significant step towards providing rural residents and businesses with high-speed internet.

“We are still very much in the early stages of the project, but we are moving forward with our goal to provide high-speed internet to our residents,” he said. “We have heard from so many people over the years that this is important to them, and council has taken the first step to reach this goal.”

Council had initially budgeted $8 million for phase one of the project, but this has increased by an additional $3 million mainly because of its decision to increase its fibre count from 144 to 288 strand fibres. This will future proof the network and give the municipality the ability to better market business opportunities.

The municipality must also construct a new tower in the Hardwood Hill Area since the recently completed design study identified the current tower in the area as unusable.

Before construction can begin, approval must be given by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission for the municipality to work within the telecommunications industry. Pending approval, the municipality is hopeful the first phase of the project can be completed by this fall.

The Municipality of Pictou County wants to become the first rural community in Canada to create its own high-speed network, which will generate funds for the municipality.
The project will see the municipality create the backbone infrastructure required for high-speed internet so internet service providers will able to provide their service and products to rural residents and businesses.

This municipally led network combines revenue sharing and world-class quality with competitive Open Access pricing and choice. Public and private sectors will combine strengths for the quick delivery of a network that sparks new businesses and social initiatives.

When the network is complete, it is looking to meet or exceed the CRTC guidelines of wired speeds: 10 Mbps up and 50 Mbps down and wireless/satellite speeds: 5 Mbps up 25 Mbps down. (Mbps = Megabits per second)

The goal is to enable 1GB download speed for fibre connections and meet the requirements for wireless.


Updated information March 2, 2020

The Municipality of Pictou County is encouraging all rural residents to sign up for our direct email updates on our high-speed internet project.

Flyers were recently distributed in the Rural News and Views that provide the link register.munpict.ca/internet for this signup. There is also an opportunity for residents to take an internet speed test that will upload and download your current internet speed.

There have been technical issues for some rural residents trying the speed test regarding their postal code, so we have made improvements.

The postal code reference is being removed by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, so we are relying on the map location pin. Please move the pin to the location of your house or office.

• When you click on the start button for the test, a screen appears with a map, for you to confirm your location;
• The marker is positioned where the test thinks you are; if that is not right, use your mouse to drag the pin to your area;
• When it marks your location, click on "Start," and the test will begin. 

More information can be found on the link below: 

CIRA-IPT-Location-Confirmation-Screen2.pdf

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For the residents of the Municipality of Pictou County (MOPC), the creation of a high-speed communications network has been one of the most urgent and pressing concerns.The Municipal Council has responded and is in the beginning stages of the construction of a broadband network that will bring high-speed and affordable coverage to 100% of residents.  The project involves a $25-million municipal investment that returns revenues for further investment in future upgrades.  It will usher in an era of expanded economic and social growth for Pictou County residents.   

The network will provide 100% coverage for all residents.  Service quality will meet or exceed Canadian standards, and pricing will be competitive and equitable.  Because the network is “Open Access”, all Internet Service Providers are welcome to offer services—a benefit that will provide variety and ensure good consumer value.

After a period of planning and review by MOPC’s consultants i-Valley, a consortium led by Nova Communications was chosen to perform the engineering planning and network construction.  The consortium includes international and local companies.

The first phase of the rural broadband project is already underway, but the full network roll-out is projected to be in 2020. To stay in the loop, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or check back here for updates throughout this exciting project.  More information on the project and the role of digital networks in today’s economy can be found here, A Story of a Network. 

Further questions about this project can be directed to Sueann Musick, Communications Officer for the Municipality of Pictou County, at 902-485-2238 or sueann.musick@munpict.ca