Province Awards Contracts for Internet Providers

Economic Development (to Jan 09)

December 5, 2007 10:29 AM

The province has signed contracts with Internet service providers, taking Nova Scotia one step closer to becoming the most connected jurisdiction in all of North America by the end of 2009.

Premier Rodney MacDonald announced today, Dec. 5, in Canaan, Lunenburg Co., that contracts have been awarded to Bragg Communications Inc. (EastLink) and Seaside Communications to provide access to high-speed Internet services.

"Improving our infrastructure is one of government's five immediate priorities to help us reach our new Nova Scotia, and 100 per cent access to broadband is a vital piece," said Premier MacDonald. "It will help every Nova Scotian business compete internationally with other businesses, it will give every Nova Scotian student access to the same educational tools, and it will generally improve the lifestyle of every citizen regardless of where they are located in our great province."

The $74.5-million broadband initiative, which touches all counties and a number of business sectors, is being cost shared by the provincial and federal governments and the successful service providers. The provincial contribution is $19.6 million. The federal contribution is a maximum of $14.5 million under the Building Canada infrastructure plan. The shared cost to the companies will be $40.4 million.

"It is vital that rural schools, health clinics, businesses and citizens have timely access to essential services and research facilities to keep Nova Scotia globally competitive," said Angus MacIsaac, Economic Development Minister. "Access to high-speed Internet will help our communities become even more attractive to new businesses, skilled workers and young professionals who can raise their families in the comfort of rural communities with many of the same advantages as urban centres."

Broadband service is currently not available to more than 200,000 Nova Scotians, 93,500 dwellings, 213 schools, and 5,600 businesses, the Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia initiative will close this gap completely.

Seaside Communications will cover Cumberland, Colchester, Pictou, Antigonish, Guysborough, Inverness, Richmond, Victoria and Cape Breton counties.

"We've been in the communications business for 31 years and welcome this project as a wonderful fit for our expertise in wireless Internet," said Irving Schwartz, president of Seaside Communications. "We completed the successful pilot project earlier this year, which gives us firm footing in knowing how to approach the special needs of the rural areas and communities covered by our contract."

EastLink has signed contracts to provide service to Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Kings and Hants counties.

"EastLink is pleased to partner with the government of Nova Scotia to achieve the goal of providing 100 per cent coverage to underserved areas," said Lee Bragg, co-CEO of EastLink. "The wireless high-speed service will be a significantly improved Internet experience over dial-up."

Halifax Regional Municipality, which includes 45 rural communities, is a unique area and was awarded earlier this year under a separate procurement process managed by the municipality. The province is working with the municipality to complete negotiations and ensure there is 100 per cent broadband coverage for all of rural HRM by the end of 2009. An announcement for the region will be made at a later date.

Cathy Pipe, a resident of Lorneville, Cumberland Co., has lived with dial-up Internet for many years. Last February, she became part of the broadband pilot project.

"High-speed Internet will open up new avenues for people of all ages and walks of life -- from farmers, to entrepreneurs to students," said Ms. Pipe. "Updating programs takes seconds and accessing large websites is a breeze."

An expert evaluation team chose the successful companies unanimously based on the criteria listed in the RFP a combination of a number of factors including their experience with the proposed technology, their approach to the project
based on their business model and technical expertise, the
sustainability of service in each zone, and their ability to meet the desired completion date within reasonable costs.

For more information, please visit www.gov.ns.ca/econ/broadband/ .


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     The province has signed contracts with two Nova Scotia

Internet service providers, Halifax-based EastLink and Seaside

Communications of Sydney, taking Nova Scotia one step closer to

100 per cent broadband access, and being the most connected

jurisdiction in all of North America by the end of 2009.

     Premier Rodney MacDonald says improving infrastructure

is one of government's five immediate priorities to help reach

the new Nova Scotia. He says 100 per cent access to broadband is

a vital piece that will help Nova Scotia businesses compete

internationally, give students access to educational tools and

improve the lifestyle of every citizen, regardless of where they

live.

     The $74.5-million broadband initiative is cost-shared by the

provincial and federal governments and the service providers. The

provincial contribution is $19.6 million. The federal

contribution is a maximum of $14.5 million and the shared cost to

the companies will be $40.4 million.

     Seaside Communications will provide service to Cumberland

Colchester, Pictou, Antigonish, Guysborough, Inverness, Richmond,

Victoria and Cape Breton counties.

     EastLink will provide service to Lunenburg, Queens,

Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Kings and Hants counties.

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Media Contacts: Mary Jane Fumerton
                Nova Scotia Economic Development
                902-424-1728
                E-mail: fumertmj@gov.ns.ca


                Joe Gillis
                Premier's Office
                902-424-3825
                E-mail: gillisj@gov.ns.ca

                Dawn Morrison
                Eastlink
                902-444-7468
                E-mail: dawn.morrison@corp.eastlink.ca

                Roland McCaffrey
                Seaside Communications
                902-539-6250 ext 234
                E-mail: rmccaffrey@seaside.ns.ca