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Darrell Disano says he’s tired of seeing major internet companies getting the “big slice of the pie,” while his own provider is being left with the crumbs.
The Breadalbane resident has been a customer of provider Route 2 since the mid-2000s and has been on a fixed low-price plan for several years.
“I’ve been pretty happy with the service,” said Disano.
However, Disano will soon have to upgrade the plan and, consequently, pay a little more.
That’s because Island Telecom, the company behind Route 2, KenNet and ISN Wireless Internet Service Providers, will be ending many of its free and low-cost services after the province announced it chose Bell and Xplornet for a multi-million contract to improve rural internet services.
Disano said he was disappointed in government’s decision.
“They’re giving Xplornet the big money and Bell the big money and trying to shut out these guys,” said Disano, who is remaining loyal to the smaller P.E.I.-based company. “Those other guys have been driving me up the wall. Every time you turn around, you get flyers from Xplornet and Bell.
“I was always a mom and pop kind of guy. I don’t like Walmart and all that shit anyway.”
Island Telecom says changes to its service, which will begin in May and should all be in place by June, will affect around 1,000 customers. The company says the decision is a reaction to news the federal government would provide $33 million and the province would provide $3.5 million to Bell Canada and Xplornet to expand rural internet services. The province has said the two companies are supposed to provide $37 million for the project.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of people who want our fibre service in their areas, so the uncertainty about thy the government is backing Bell has everyone basically stopping to say why is this happening?”
The recent announcement drew criticism from smaller P.E.I. internet providers who also submitted proposals.
“It is not realistic for us to carry these free services to the many local rural communities we serve when government is providing tens of millions of dollars to the largest, and most expensive, internet companies in Canada,” stated company spokesman Garth Oatway, who is also an NDP candidate for the upcoming provincial election.
Oatway also noted the province previously made an 11-year, $23.3 million contract with Bell Aliant in 2008 that was supposed to see provincewide high-speed internet.
Currently, Route 2 offers free or community packages to 832 accounts in western P.E.I., while the changes will affect about 112 people in the eastern part of the province.
Oatway said customers using those plans tend to be older residents with basic internet needs.
“And we provided both no-cost and low-cost, typically at $20 per month, packages so that they could afford some sort of service,” said Oatway. “But we have covered the costs all these years on our own, as a private business, with nothing from government.”
The biggest impact will be customers of KenNet, a not-for-profit provider based in Kensington. That service will be lost entirely. Oatway said the company will be working with KenNet customers to move to a new Island Telecom service.
The move will also see a small number of Summerside customers no longer receive free or discounted services.
Oatway said that would affect a few dozen customers who are now paying around $20 per month, or those who have even had free service under a deal. Those customers will now have to pay market rates to keep their service.
Oatway said it’s important for seasonal customers, such as those in cottages, to know that the service needs enough time to remove old equipment and put new receivers in place to make sure they will continue to have paid service available by Island Telecom this summer.
He said the company is also working to expand fibre service in rural P.E.I., although how much will depend upon if the province changes its approach.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of people who want our fibre service in their areas, so the uncertainty about thy the government is backing Bell has everyone basically stopping to say why is this happening?” said Oatway.
Oatway said customers are being informed by email and flyers and customers can call 1-833-FIBRE-OPTIC to check the status of their account and when changes will affect them.