The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people’s professional and personal lives online, but for some in Nova Scotia, being able to log on still isn’t an option.
Take Kim MacPherson, as an example.
“We needed the connection between our communities, between our neighbours, and it was really hard to create that because of the lack of connection to the internet,” said MacPherson, an Eastern Shore resident and small business owner.
MacPherson runs her small business out of her home on West Petpeswick Road near Musquodoboit Harbour, considered the hub of the Eastern Shore.
She moved to the coastal community in 2015 and was eager to contribute to the local culture and economy through the creation of her catering and farm-to-table restaurant, called Lupin Dining & Pantry.
That endeavor hit a landslide of challenges when she realized she was essentially isolated from potential customers because of a lack of reliable internet.
“I’d say it played a huge part in losing a lot of jobs as a caterer back when we first got started because so many times I’d realize that my emails weren’t going through because of a connection issue,” MacPherson said.
In 2018, the provincial government launched the Internet for Nova Scotia Initiative with the end of goal of providing more than 95 per cent of homes and businesses with access to high-speed internet.
The pandemic led to the province ramping up efforts to both expand and speed up the initiative with the end goal of 2023 for having as close to 100 per cent of Nova Scotians connected as possible.
For many, that timeline can’t move fast enough.
“People are very frustrated. I mean, I wish it was 2022,” said Karen Bradley, another Eastern Shore resident.
The pandemic caused her to shift her work as a dance movement therapist to online classrooms. She says the move was a struggle for many of her Eastern Shore clients because they didn’t have internet access.
An issue she says she often hears people discussing in the community.
“The teachers at the high school [Eastern Shore District High School] have also had challenges with internet access depending on where they live. So, the conversations have been going on regularly,” Bradley says.
A record number of Canadians have been moving to Nova Scotia over the past four years.
With inter-provincial migration continuing to increase during the pandemic, MacPherson says many people may be in for a shock to realize their home purchase may not come with a guaranteed internet connection.
“A service that should just be there. It’s a standard that should be there. We are so well below that standard that I think it’s going to be a deterrent for people when they do get here,” she said.
The Nova Scotia NDP Party says they’d support community groups and municipalities in expanding internet services where needed.
The Nova Scotia PC Party says they’d subsidize the costs of satellite installation for any households still in need of service.
The current Internet for Nova Scotia Initiative was launched under Stephen McNeil.
“Anytime you see any of the candidates in this area, my understanding is they’re being asked a lot about internet,” Bradley said.