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Filling the internet gap on the Northern Peninsula

One of the Tower Telecom towers at Yankee Point, between Flower's Cove and Savage Cove, on the Great Northern Peninsula. The tower transmits internet data directly to homes in the area. CONTRIBUTED
One of the Tower Telecom towers at Yankee Point, between Flower's Cove and Savage Cove, on the Great Northern Peninsula. The tower transmits internet data directly to homes in the area. CONTRIBUTED - Contributed

Tower Telecom and IceNet working to expand service area

GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, N.L. — More options for high speed internet are emerging for remote communities on the Great Northern Peninsula (GNP).

Developments are underway with smaller providers like Tower Telecom and IceNet, both working to expand their services in the area.

Some believe it is necessary to fill gaps left by Bell Aliant, the primary internet service provider on the peninsula.

This past August, Tower Telecom, a fixed wireless internet service provider based locally in Bird Cove, expanded its network to provide services to communities in the Flower’s Cove area.

Jarvis Caines of Bird Cove owns Tower Telecom, which he started in 2015.

It initially used four towers to provide wireless internet to 10 communities including Bird Cove, Plum Point and other surrounding communities.

This summer, the business installed three additional towers and now covers 21 communities, reaching from Castor River South to a part of Sandy Cove.

Next, he might be looking at St. Anthony.

Caines told The Northern Pen he’s been getting calls recently from residents in St. Anthony who are unhappy with the service provided by Bell Aliant.

He plans to conduct a site survey next summer and hopes he can install two or three towers because of how the town is plotted.

Meanwhile, IceNet provides internet services in different areas of the province, and currently offers packages in 13 GNP communities.

Last year, the company received $2.21 million through the federal government’s Connect to Innovate program.

IceNet CEO Kalai Kalaichelvan told The Northern Pen the funds will be used for service upgrades including faster speeds and 24 additional towers to expand their services to over 40 communities on the west coast of the Great Northern Peninsula.

They will also upgrade to provide 4G LTE, a faster speed than 3G for mobile devices.

IceNet is currently waiting on the federal government to sign off on the contract.

Kalaichelvan hopes the agreement will be signed soon.

Both companies tap into the fibre optic line, through one of Newfoundland's two major providers, Bell Aliant or Eastlink, and runs it to one of their own towers.

Each tower has an antenna which transmits internet data to an antenna installed at a residence or business.

Additional towers are installed for communities outside the first tower’s range. The data is transmitted from the first tower to the others and then directed to the customer.

Testimony
According to Bird Cove mayor, Andre Myers, the system works.

Myers was one of Tower Telecom’s first customers as part of an early 2010 trial run.

He’s kept it ever since.

Myers uses the Tower Basic package which provides download (DL) speeds of up to 10 mbps and upload (UL) speeds up to 2 mbps.

He pays $65/month.

He said it’s better than Bell Aliant's service.

Before switching over to Tower Telecom, Myers did a speed test and said he was getting speeds four or five times slower than what he gets now.

He said lagging speeds are not a problem

“Ten mbps is more than you’ll ever want,” he shared.

In his home multiple devices are often connected to the internet simultaneously, including TVs, phones, laptops, and iPads. Yet there is never an issue, he said.

Occasional outages occur, but he said the issue is corrected remotely when Caines is contacted.

Myers said most people in Bird Cove are using Tower Telecom with no reported issues.

Need for better service
These alternatives exist as frustrations with Bell Aliant’s internet service are growing. 

Danny McLean has been an advocate for better internet services in St. Anthony.

He created the Better Internet Services for Residents of the Great Northern Peninsula Facebook page in February to promote local internet concerns.

McLean said he is charged $119 monthly for what Bell Aliant terms “ultra-high speed.”

However, the best speeds he gets are around five to six mbps. Other residents have reported speeds of around one mbps for the same cost.

They are supposed to receive seven mbps download speeds.

According to Caines, Bell Aliant’s internet service is more expensive because it requires the installation of a phone line. IceNet does not.

McLean is encouraged by the existence of smaller providers for these communities and hopes to see continued expansion.

“This type of system is the answer to our issues with internet speeds in the area,” he said.. “And it’s a cost-effective approach for rural Newfoundland. The CRTC and government should most definitely consider his (Caines) company and others like his when issuing grants for better internet in rural communities.”

McLean is glad Caines hopes to expand to St. Anthony, believing both businesses and residents will greatly benefit from the service.

He also hopes that competition reaching larger towns on the Great Northern Peninsula, like St. Anthony, will pressure Bell Aliant to upgrade its own system to keep customers from leaving.

Tower Telecom plans
$65/month
10 mbps download speed
2 mbps upload speed

$75/month
15 mbps download speed
4 mbps upload speed

$85/month
25 mbps download speed
6 mbps upload speed

Data unlimited
For more information visit towertelecom.ca

IceNet plans
$39.95/month
1.5 mbps download speed
0.5 mbps upload speed

$54.95/month
3 mbps download speed
1 mbps upload speed

$89.95/month
10 mbps download speed

Data unlimited
For more information visit icenetwireless.com

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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