A councillor in the village of Doaktown said he’s discouraged that a promised upgrade for high-speed internet services in his community appears to have stalled.
Doaktown was identified by Bell Canada in July as one of four communities in Atlantic Canada to participate in a 5G pilot project that is supposed to be in place by the end of 2020.
Bell also released a list of communities last month that are slated to receive high-speed internet upgrades in the next two years.
But Doaktown councillor Art O’Donnell said the village isn’t on that list and the pilot project has not happened.
He said a lack of reliable high-speed internet is putting his and other rural communities at a disadvantage.
“I’ve talked to two different families who have moved here since the pandemic started, that moved to our area, and then within a month relocated to Miramichi,” O’Donnell said. “Because it was part of their plan to come here and work from home and be in a smaller, rural area.”
O’Donnell said the federal and provincial governments need to do more to resolve the issue throughout New Brunswick. The telecommunications sector is federally regulated through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
“Nobody wants to take ownership because rural areas are obviously not as populated,” O’Donnell said.
Southwest Miramichi-Bay du Vin MLA Jake Stewart said he’s disappointed Bell has not acted on its summer promise.
“I think there’s a great argument in New Brunswick for a public utility for internet because the private companies just aren’t cutting it,” Stewart said. “I think there’s going to be a great conversation over that over the next couple of years.
“I’m hopeful that Bell has made some sort of typing error and Doaktown is going to be on the list for this fall, which was committed to on July 23.”
Stewart said if Bell is not keeping its commitment, it needs to explain why.
In an email response to Global News, Bell spokesperson Katie Hatfield said the launch of the company’s Wireless Home Internet program in New Brunswick “includes about 15,000 households” before the end of 2020.
“We’ll be expanding to approximately 68,000 households over the next 2 years, including in the Doaktown area as well as Edmundston, Bathurst, Shippagan and many communities in between,” Hatfield said. “We’ll be letting customers know when service is available in their community.”