By Ole Hammarlund, MLA District 13 Charlottetown-Brighton
Official Opposition Critic for Economic Growth; Tourism and Culture
Prince Edward Island depends very much on tourism. We have spent lots of money on promoting our beautiful Island. In fact, people come from all over the world to enjoy the scenic vistas, experience our wonderful beaches, and eat copious amounts of seafood. They take pictures and video to share with family and friends back home. Some are even travel bloggers and vloggers. Imagine their surprise when they arrive on our Island and find themselves in the dark ages of modern technology.
PEI has some of the worst internet connectivity and speeds in the country. Our province depends a lot on the tourism dollars of travelers seeking great experiences. We want those people to share their experiences and to showcase all that we have to offer. So, why have we not yet overcome the obstacle of subpar internet service?
Rumours of improvements
We hear government is working to improve connection and to ensure all of PEI is covered by high-speed internet. On the surface, this is encouraging. However, in reality it seems to be not much more than lip service. Delay upon delay means Islanders are having to wait longer and longer for a service that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) says is a basic service that all Canadians deserve.
The government is working on a plan to put in place high speed service. Or at least that is what they are telling us. What they are not really telling us are details of this service. Currently, a number of places on PEI have what internet service providers describe as ‘high-speed’. Under their definition, this is internet service that offers ‘up to 1.0 Mbps’ speeds. At this speed of ‘up to 1.0 Mbps’, you cannot offer consistent, quality service for many of today’s online activities. Also, it is important to note the CRTC said in 2016 basic internet service is measured to have at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds. We are nowhere near this speed.
We need more than rumours
Islanders all have stories of insufficient connection speeds. We hear often of tourism operators spending hundreds of dollars each month to provide internet services to a traveling public that expects to remain connected wherever they are in the world. We also know of businesses like Reset:Breathe Fitness  who are being unfairly disadvantaged as they cannot connect appropriately to the world outside our province.
This issue is more than that of convenience or luxury. Our Island businesses and tourism operators expect and need to be connected to markets outside our province.
Then there is government’s plan to offer employees the ability to telecommute as part of its active transportation plan. However, I know for a fact, this is virtually impossible for employees who live outside urban centres. How can these employees work from home when there is no way for them to connect to the online services they require to carry out the duties expected of them? You cannot access large documents, do video-conferencing, or a host of other online activities using existing infrastructure and internet speeds. It is disingenuous for government to tout this option when it is impossible to actually take advantage of it.
What is the plan to take us out of the internet dark age?
Can government finally address the issue of internet connectivity in a very real and meaningful way? What are the details of its plan? What speeds can we expect and when will Islanders be connected from tip to tip? Islanders want to know. Government has promised transparency and connection. Give us the details.
 Neatby, Stu. “Fitness entrepreneur paying up to $500 a month for spotty internet in rural P.E.I.”, The Guardian, 06 January 2020, https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/business/local-business/fitness-entrepreneur-paying-up-to-500-a-month-for-spotty-internet-in-rural-pei-394682/ Retrieved: February 14, 2020