For immediate release

16 September 2016

Bevan-Baker stunned at details of Bell Aliant contract

After finally having a chance to see a redacted version of the 2008 Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) between the Province and Bell Aliant, Green Party of PEI Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is concerned not only about how the contract was negotiated – which created our current deficient situation – but also about what the future may hold, especially for rural PEI.

In the document released yesterday, several key points have been redacted, primarily relating to how much public money was used to build the high-speed infrastructure on PEI. “However,” said Bevan-Baker, “it is clear that Islanders got their bell rung when the government signed this deal.”

Under the SPA, the Province partially funded the expansion of Bell Aliant’s privately-owned broadband network, giving the company a competitive advantage over its rivals and helping them form a partial-monopoly over rural internet services. “The fact that Bell Aliant is free to ‘downgrade’ rural services in 2020 will not help rural Islanders get better internet services in the long term, nor promote community development in rural PEI,” said Bevan-Baker.

Bevan-Baker notes that the SPA calls for speeds of “up to 1.5 Mbps” in a limited number of communities, which is far less than the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) 2011 target of 5 Mbps “to all Canadians … by the end of 2015”. CRTC data from 2014 show that most of PEI still does not have adequate internet services for modern uses. “This points to the contract’s failure to significantly improve service for rural Islanders, and to a need for a new plan to improve rural broadband on PEI,” said Bevan-Baker

At the time the SPA was signed, Bruce Howett of Bell Aliant described his company’s commitment “to provide broadband to all communities across Prince Edward Island.” The SPA has a specific list of 56 communities in which service would be expanded. “This deal was sold as finally bringing modern internet to every community on PEI, but as we now see, that was simply not the case,” said Bevan-Baker. “Several communities in my district are not on that list and still don’t have full access to even the low-speed service that we were told this deal would provide.”

Bevan-Baker hopes that government will learn some valuable lessons from the failure of this agreement. “It’s clear that any future initiatives need to be done better. We need to go through a public tendering process to open it up to competition and ensure we get the best possible deal, not negotiate secretly with a single company. We also need to put in up-to-date infrastructure that will be relevant into the future, which basically means fibre optic lines, or technology with a similar capacity, Island-wide.”

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Media contact:

Peter Bevan-Baker
902-368-4339 (office), 902-388-8171 (cell)
psbevanbaker@assembly.pe.ca

 

Background:

The full Strategic Partnership Agreement as submitted to the Standing Committee on Education and Economic Development on 15 September 2016, is available on Bevan-Baker’s website.

From the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2011-291:

“[R]ecognizing that Internet service is an increasingly important means of communication, the Commission considers that it would be in the public interest to establish universal target speeds for broadband Internet access in Canada. This should ensure that all Canadians, particularly those in rural and remote areas, can benefit from a greater level of broadband connectivity. In this decision, the Commission establishes target speeds of 5 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. These speeds should be available to all Canadians, through a variety of technologies, by the end of 2015.”

The CRTC has produced a map of Broadband Internet Service Coverage in Canada, which shows that the vast majority of rural Prince Edward Island is classified as “Unserved/Underserved” (less than 5 Mbps download speed) as of 2014. Note that new internet service providers have recently been established which may provide “high speed” service in some parts of PEI.

Bruce Howatt, Vice-President, PEI, Bell Aliant, was quoted from a 2008 article in The Guardian by Wayne Thibodeau. Similar statements were made by he and others in a variety of other sources (1, 2, 3, 4).

 

8 Comments

  1. Barry Bigger 16 September 2016 at 11:27 am

    Peter, isn’t it about time that people collectively make our elected representatives accountable. The premier ran on transparency and accountability which, despite his extensive has no idea what those words mean. Even on the best days the best he (and his cohorts) provides is murky opaqueness.
    The only sane voice available to us is the Green Party. We need the leadership which I strongly believe YOU are more than capable of providing.
    Is the king and his court going to stonewall the AG (and us) on the e-gaming report supposedly due shortly? Rhetorical question since we all know he/they will and unless we the citizens stand up for ourselves.

     
  2. Peter 16 September 2016 at 12:36 pm

    So why can’t the province provide funding for the smaller companies like Island Telecom and Wicked Eh, to get them established. The province should stand behind local island businesses. These guys want to step up and fill that gap. So clear the way for them PEI, clear the way.

     
  3. Dwayne 16 September 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Is it even legal for government or politicians to give a company an economic advantage over other companies? And, why the hell do governments sign deals without signed, sealed and delivered guarantees….. instead of business promises, which, like pre-election promises, mean nothing?

     
    • John Getson 17 September 2016 at 10:23 am

      “Is it even legal for government or politicians to give a company an economic advantage over other companies?”… since when does ‘legal’ matter? and why does ‘legal’ matter more than “right”?

      as to it happening it happens every single day… in the form of government subsidies, tax breaks, labour market agreements and just about every single other time that tax payer money is given to ANY private corporation

       
  4. C. Foy 17 September 2016 at 8:27 am

    Oh Yeah, we were one of the communities that were told we would have high speed internet on the last deal but never did. They tell us we have high speed and I’d like to know, compared to what…..the Giant turtle. So Augustine Cove one of the busiest and heavier populated communities had to settle for second best. We don’t have anyone else who can compare to this mediocre service at the same price. So, for people like myself, I take what I get. Right now I pay more for my telephone and internet than I do for my heat/air conditioning, in a year. So this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Smarten up MacLaughlin, we thought you would be fair and smarter than the last.

     
  5. W.Wilkins 17 September 2016 at 9:14 am

    Aren’t Islanders entitled to something more than “hope” that this government will learn from the failure of this agreement? Perhaps not.

    If the government doesn’t even acknowledge the agreement is a failure, there’s no hope. Indeed, it may be worse than hopeless. If the past is the best predictor of the future, there’s ample evidence that these “deals” are being made now, and will be made again. Don’t forget, for those elite Islanders who continue to directly benefit, these deals are far from a failure.

     
  6. John Getson 17 September 2016 at 10:19 am

    Maybe, we should look at “our government’ take over ‘responsibility’ for the expansion and maintenance of the actual grid delivery infastructures (communications, power, etc) much as they do for at least some of the transportation grid (highways) and then charge the “service providers” for access in order to deliver their services to the end user… doing it that way provides a long-term income stream for the government coffers AND allows consumers tp purchase from whichever supplier actually offers the best value OR aligns with the consumers “sensibilities” ie; solar/wind generated electricity vs coal fired power

     
  7. C. Foy 26 September 2016 at 9:26 am

    Good morning folks. Lesson Learned:
    Bell Aliant do not own the “411” directory assistance advertised in their phone book. “411” belongs to a separate company they told me when I called this a.m. I had gotten wrong number, name and information about a number I was looking for . “Whether you are given the wrong name, number or information, you still have to pay $2.99 per call. Yes, they charged me for 3 inquires and still didn’t get the number. The phone book, just new this year, does not say that 411 belongs to another company , for starters. What constitutes false advertising?
    I was given a one time refund . After this I will have to pay 2.99 every time I call 411. I thought the charge was $1.99 but guess that is none of my business either.
    She said Bell Aliant does not own 411 but East Link also charges for directory assistance. Too bad East Link doesn’t get the same privileges that Aliant does.

     

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