PORT HOPE SIMPSON, NL – Extremely slow and burdensome internet service has kept a southern Labrador community limited on all fronts.
Glynes Penney of Port Hope Simpson says in today’s world where nearly every task and transaction relies on internet usage, her town is suffering and is dire need of improved service.
“Everywhere we turn, we’ve got limits to what we can do,” said Penney. “I think we’ve got it the worst on the coast of Labrador. Everyone that comes here says they’ve never seen it as bad as this.”
To simply pay her bills, Penney says she often has to stay up as late as 3 a.m., when network traffic has died down, for transactions to go through. Even then, Penney says it can take three or four days just to process one bill payment.
Mayor Margaret Burden says lack of adequate internet has slowed down all basic services for the community, from health care to education.
“It is absolutely useless,” said Burden. “With online courses students sometimes can’t get online all together and miss assignments. Our clinic needs the internet; it’s horrible for businesses.
On council, we send emails on important matters to deal with – but I can’t open my email to see it. Guests come to our hotel and it’s almost laughable to advertise that we have WiFi.
“We’re suffering because we can’t get any work done. Everyone here is just fed up a million times over.”
Ordering groceries online is common practice for Port Hope Simpson. Like Penney, Burden says she has to stay up well-past midnight, or wake up at 5 a.m. to place her weekly orders.
The town has been attempting for some time to get improved internet services, such as replacing the small radio tower that has been the source of the issue.
“We’ve contacted Bell Aliant and the politicians but there’s not much the politicians can do,” said Burden. “What they’re telling us is we’ve got too many users and not enough space.
Everyone in town has got at least three pieces of technology in their homes. All the kids have phones and laptops – in this age of technology that’s just the way it is.”
Burden says the cost of replacing the towers would be over $1 million, and with a proposal to bring Fibre Optic internet to Red Bay, Port Hope Simpson is placing its hopes on the later option.
Partnered with the federal government, the proposed project for Fibre Optic internet to Red Bay would provide much-improved internet services to Port Hope Simpson and down as far as Charlottetown.
Burden says the last she heard, one more partner needs to sign onto the project before it can go ahead.
“It is scheduled for 2018, but at the rate things are going it may be 2020 or later,” she said.
With no definitive answer, Port Hope Simpson will continue to deal with an internet service that has caused mass frustration for the community. Penney says many visitors and businesses will leave the area to go to towns like Mary’s Harbour, simply to do a task like booking a ticket for the next ferry.