Questions By Members, 8 December 2016
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI

Rural broadband and high-speed Internet

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

The Minister of Economic Development and Tourism has told this House that government is talking to private Internet service providers as well as community groups to get better Internet access on rural Prince Edward Island. There could be many advantages to using community municipal cooperative models for rural Internet: a greater incentive to maintain services in the community, increased flexibility, more responsive service, and the profits stay locally.

Question to the minister: How has government explored the possibility of using community municipal or cooperative models to improve rural broadband?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

Mr. MacDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I’ve said several times in this House, how important ensuring that Islanders and businesses alike from one end of the Island to the other have good high-speed Internet connections. What we’ve done is we’ve – and the most recent and a good example is Maximeville, that we sent out an RFP to the suppliers that could come in there, the ISP suppliers that could come in there, and set up broadband services to that community that seems to be a grey area on PEI. We’ve done that.

But further to that, driving competition in regards to these companies, we’ve just heard yesterday that one of the suppliers has already offered up to do it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your first supplementary.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Most of the discussion about rural broadband has centered on economic development, but many other opportunities become available once we have good, true high-speed in all of our communities: distance learning, telemedicine, smart electric grids, and civic engagement, to name just a few.

A question to the minister: How has government considered these non-economic opportunities, in particular, during its discussions with ISPs?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

Mr. MacDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I’ve stated several times in the House that it’s not only businesses but students that are learning from whether it’s abroad or within Canada from universities. It’s extremely important to us and we’re taking all facets. That’s why we’re putting this on the front burner. That’s why I’ve been talking about it in the media. That’s why we’ve been accessing any possible options for communities to come forward. If there are issues out there we want to know about them. We want to understand them. We want to make available any infrastructures in our government, whether it be land or buildings that these towers could be placed on. We’ll work with service providers. We want to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party, your second supplementary question.

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In order for us to take advantage of all these opportunities multiple departments will need to collaborate, and we know this government’s approach to rural development is that all departments have to work together on it.

A question to the minister: How many discussions have you or your staff had with other government departments specifically about how to take advantage of the opportunities that will become available by having true high-speed Internet across Prince Edward Island?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

Mr. MacDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My department alone covers bioscience, marine tech, aerospace, farming, fishing, and our lending portfolio through FPEI and IIDI. I’m involved in every one of these industries and sectors. We continue to – we – as my mandate is to drive the economy of PEI. I have to look at all these different sectors to ensure that they’re reaching capacity, and that’s why we’ve led the country in exports over the past two years. That’s why, Mr. Speaker, over 60% of my loan portfolio is in rural PEI.

Thank you.

 

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