Original Published on Aug 17, 2022 at 05:34

By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

EASTERN SHORE – A week after they announced it, provincial officials have clarified and expanded an Internet funding program designed to beat the high cost of lightning-fast service for up to 900 residents of the Eastern Shore.

The new Satellite Internet Service Rebate program, launched by the Department of Economic Development through Develop Nova Scotia in August, offers one-time rebates of up to $1,000 to set up super high-speed, through international service provider Starlink, in remote areas of the province where no ground-based options exist.

The company — which began offering residential and commercial satellite Internet to rural Nova Scotia about a year ago — typically charges about $750 for hardware and $140 a month for service that provides minimum 50-mbps download and 10-mbps upload speeds.

The province’s original announcement suggested financial relief was available only to those who planned to upgrade to this high-frontier of direct telecommunications. But, according to Develop Nova Scotia spokesperson Deborah Page, the funding program also reimburses qualified customers who have already spent money to acquire the orbital service.

“[We’ll be] approving those [purchases] for payment, whether people buy them today — or bought them yesterday, or six months before, or whenever — if they are on that [eligibility] list,” she told The Journal, noting that the initiative specifically targets homes and businesses that do not have access to wired or wireless Internet.

Last week, the province expanded the coverage. Initially, about 3,700 potential customers across the province, including about 900 in eastern and rural Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) and Guysborough County were eligible. Another 2,200 have been added, many in Pictou County, who were not expected to gain access to high-speed Internet through traditional service providers, such as Bell, until at least 2024.

David Hendsbee, HRM councillor for Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore, said a service like this has been a priority for him and his constituents for some time. “In Sheet Harbour, it’s not so bad, but once you go down those coastal roads, it’s pretty bad,” he said. “ In some areas, there’s little or no cell phone service. The internet has become an essential service. Nowadays, everyone needs to have it. It’s critical.”

Said Economic Development Minister Susan Corkum-Greek: “This expansion is about levelling the playing field so that Nova Scotians who are the furthest out from gaining access to Internet can get connected more quickly. Our government committed to extending internet access to every household in Nova Scotia and closing the connection gaps.

She added: “As our province continues to grow, important infrastructure like reliable high-speed Internet is critical to our success. We want to foster growth and prosperity across Nova Scotia, and each new Internet connection represents fewer barriers, faster business growth and more communities being able to connect.”

Nova Scotians can confirm their eligibility by visiting the Develop Nova Scotia website and entering their home or business address. 

Page said, there is no termination date for the program. 

“Not at this time.”

This item reprinted with permission from the Journal, Guysborough, Nova Scotia