When Cory Emino wants to settle down on the couch to watch Netflix after a long day at work, it’s not quite as simple as a couple of clicks on the computer. It involves a bit more planning.
“If you’re going to watch a streaming movie, you don’t start it at six o’clock in the evening,” he said. “You have to kind of pick and choose the times when you go to use something.”
Where he lives in Upper Branch, N.S., northwest of Bridgewater, his Bell network sometimes has a lot of users, and streamed movies buffer constantly.
When he turns on his cellphone, he’s lucky if he gets two bars of service out of five.
And he has to be careful how much data he uses because he doesn’t have unlimited service.
“You get to the point where it’s like … the last three days of the month, let’s shut it down here for a bit.”
This is a familiar tale to thousands of Nova Scotians who live in rural areas and have limited internet options.
But for Emino and dozens of other households on Upper Branch Road there’s an added frustration: a high-speed internet cable runs right past their houses.
‘Fantastic. We are getting internet finally.’
A year and a half ago, a press conference held just down the road at the Midville and District fire hall — where Emino is fire chief — touted the expansion of high-speed internet service in the area.
Then, this September, Emino came home one day to find workers in a bucket truck stringing up a cable in front of his house.
“So we thought, ‘Fantastic. We are getting internet finally.'”
But no dice. He called Eastlink, only to learn that there were no plans to connect his home to the cable.
“I can literally look out the window right now and look across the road and see it,” he said. “That’s a little ridiculous.”
Emino pays about $170 per month for his Bell cellular hub. He said service provided to residents through the new Eastlink line is $74 per month for the first two years and $99 per month after that, with unlimited usage.
He says he’s already tried his only other option — an Eastlink rural wireless network — but said for him, the service was as slow as dial-up “back in the day,” or even slower.
Installation funded by government
The installation of the line along Upper Branch Road this fall was part of a project funded by all three levels of government — a fact that irks Emino.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “Our taxes go towards subsidizing this installation and we are seeing zero benefit from it.”
No one from Eastlink was available for an interview, but a spokesperson for the company sent a statement saying Emino’s address “falls outside of this project plan,” which was approved by the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg.
Dave Waters, the municipality’s director of business development, tourism and infrastructure, said areas where a certain percentage of residents already had access to quality high-speed internet — defined as at least 5 Mbps — did not meet federal eligibility requirements for full funding under the federal government’s Connect to Innovate program.
The cable that runs past Emino’s house serves an area where no one had at least 5 Mbps, Waters said.
He said he’s heard from more than 800 residents in the municipality who say they are in need of better quality internet service.
Service expansion a business decision
The decision about where to bring service is also a financial call made by internet service providers, said Deborah Page, the director of marketing and communications for Develop Nova Scotia, the provincial agency tasked with implementing a strategy to bring high-speed service to underserved areas.
“There’s a market failure because of the the density of population,” Page said. “They’re businesses. They’re going to go where they think they can recoup their investment and make their money.”
Page said Develop Nova Scotia plans to make an announcement about new high-speed internet projects before the end of the year.