Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia initiative

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Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia is a government initiative intended to provide broadband (500 kbit/s upload, 1.5 Mbit/s download) services to 100% of civic addresses in Nova Scotia, Canada. The initiative is a public private partnership co-funded by the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia, and three Internet service providers. The Motorola Canopy fixed wireless 900 MHz system was selected in 2006-7 to provide the service. Prior to this program it had not been deployed in Nova Scotia.

History[edit]

In May 2006, the Nova Scotia government announced that it would work with a number of partners to ensure that every Nova Scotian would have broadband access. The Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia initiative[1] was established to deliver high speed access to the Internet to "100 per cent of Nova Scotia civic addresses" by the end of 2009.

Rationale[edit]

When the initiative is complete, the entire province will have access to broadband services. When the 100 per cent target is reached, Nova Scotia will be one of the most connected jurisdictions in Canada and in North America.[2] A similar project was undertaken in Finland with good results.

At the time of the 2006 announcement, data showed that high-speed Internet service was available to 72% of Nova Scotian communities, which comprised about 80 per cent of the population.[3] It was estimated by the Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development that approximately 200,000 Nova Scotians, 93,500 dwellings, 213 schools, and 5,600 businesses did not have access to broadbandservices.

Cumberland pilot project[edit]

In September 2006 the Nova Scotia government announced that it would undertake a pilot project to examine ways to bring affordable high-speed Internet service to rural areas.[4] A 15 km area from Tidnish to Port Howe, Cumberland County, was chosen and the government invested $430,000 in the project. The province used a request for proposals to find a partner company to implement the pilot project.

In January 2007 Seaside Communications, a small cable TV company based on Cape Breton Island, won the contract to undertake the pilot project. It was completed by the summer of 2007. The province then issued Requests for Proposals for the delivery of broadband services to residents of seven zones it had created across the province.

Technology[edit]

900MHz Canopy vs. WiFi and 3G[edit]

With 700 MHz likely reserved in the US for emergency use, and home cordless phones, Wi-Fi and monitoring devices now in the 2.4 GHz and 5.8-6.0 GHz range, the 900 MHz band is underused and has good propagation and penetration characteristics. After the pilot projects proved this fact, the Motorola Canopy technology was evaluated against other wireless alternatives including 3G telco services and 802.11 based "Wi-Fi" services. However, Canopy has a maximum download speed well under 5 Mbit/s, less than one-third the speed of the Eastlink cable wired service (15Mbit/s), and an upload speed less than half that.

VoIP use not contractually guaranteed[edit]

Eastlink had guaranteed, verbally, latencies under 100ms suitable for voice over IP, but this appears nowhere in its contracts. Eastlink does not offer its own VoIP service over its own fixed wireless connection.

Powerline networking not considered[edit]

In the process of considering how best to provide universal connectivity, powerline networking was apparently not considered although it reaches very nearly "100% of civic addresses" in Nova Scotia and has up to a thousand times higher maximum throughput (up to half a gigabit per second using G.hn or IEEE 1901 on Atheros 7400 or Gigle Networks 541 chips). In more robust outdoor broadband-over-power-line (BPL) configurations it has worked well in environments (such as Washington Island, Wisconsin, where it was specifically selected over Canopy and has performed very well [YouTube video]). IBM and IBEC have announced plans to use BPL to serve 200,000 rural Americans. However, since power lines are unshielded, powerline networking tends to interfere with other radio communication systems in the short wave bands.

NS smart grid communications potential[edit]

However, such a deployment is complicated by the fact that Nova Scotia Power is a private company - a subsidiary of Emera - although it is regulated by the government it cannot directly be ordered to provide any particular service. With the rollout of smart grid technologies the communications capabilities of Nova Scotia's grid could almost certainly allow for over-provisioning for rural broadband if this was a priority of the provincial government - under the NS government announced plans of 2010 the grid was due to be upgraded significantly before 2020. While the announced upgrades were mostly supply-sided (to accommodate distributed generation) the US National Broadband Plan has explicitly included energy monitoring and management ("goal 6", chapter 12) as a right of all consumers. The NIST smart grid standards for authentication, encryption and verifiable legal bonding credentials of service providers are suitable to let third parties manage customers' private data. Emera must meet all these standards in its US subsidiaries so to simply copy them in Nova Scotia and over-provision its internal monitoring network to provide arbitrary communications services would not be difficult.

Regulations and rights of way[edit]

Improvements are hindered by an extremely ambiguous regulatory environment in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where provincial regulators often are unaware that they, not the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, regulate access to power poles and can set tariffs for any use of these for communications. While provinces may use these to recover revenue for rights of way the province lends the power and communications firms, so far only New Brunswick Power (a directly provincially owned "crown corporation") has done this. No electric power company in the Canadian Maritimes has directly competed in communications.

Wireless upgrades by competitors[edit]

The Community Access Program (C@P) of the Nova Scotia government has, in the wake of better connectivity for most users, also shifted priorities from libraries and schools to serving community centres, provincial parks and historic sites with wireless Internet - meaning 802.11 access points. These often serve persons without home access.

The prospect of losing literally all their customers in some communities has also forced Telus, Aliant and Rogers to expand DSL and 3G, although unlimited-data plans remain as of May 2010 unavailable within NS. The most viable strictly private competing service in rural Nova Scotia is the "Turbo Hub" service offered by Rogers using the Ericsson W35, which provides some users with megabit performance, however with an extremely high (approximately $10/GB) usage price[citation needed]. By contrast, a theoretical 1.5 down /0.5 up Canopy link would provide, for under $50/month, about 162GB upload, 426GB download, if in full use all the time.

Project launch and progress[edit]

In October 2007, the Government of Canada confirmed that it was contributing to the Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia initiative. The $75 million investment was cost-shared by the federal government ($14.5 million), the provincial government ($19.5 million) and the companies contracted to deliver the service ($41 million).

In December 2007, the province signed contracts with two Internet service providers, Bragg Communications (EastLink) and Seaside Communications to serve most of rural Nova Scotia.

Seaside Communications signed contracts to deliver broadband services to residents of the counties of: Cumberland, Colchester, Guysborough, Antigonish, Pictou and all of the island of Cape Breton.[5]

Eastlink signed contracts to deliver broadband services to residents of the counties of Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Digby, Annapolis, Kings, and Hants.[6]

The following August 2008, the province signed a third contract with Omniglobe Networks to deliver high speed services to rural Halifax Regional Municipality.

In November 2009, both Seaside Communications and Eastlink admitted they were not going to be able to complete their portions of the project by the deadline of December 31, 2009.[7] This resulted in public calls for the Province to invoke penalty clauses of both the Eastlink and Seaside contracts for failure to meet their timeline commitments. Omniglobe Networks however was finished by the deadline and was in the process of upgrading services to higher speeds as of May 2010.

Eastlink projected its completion date to be the end of May 2010, however in mid-June they acknowledged that a number of customers were still without access, and it would be up to six more weeks before they would be connected. EastLink declined to provide how many customers were still without access.[8] Seaside Communications had stated its work would be completed by the end of summer (September) 2010;[9] as of December 31, 2010 this pledge has still not been fulfilled.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nova Scotia Department of Economic and Rural Development press release, May 2006
  2. ^ Sources for data compiled from Statistics Canada and Connected Nation, USA
  3. ^ Canadian Internet Use Survey, 2005
  4. ^ Dept of Economic Development press release, 2006
  5. ^ see Seaside Wireless website for details of coverage to date
  6. ^ see EastLink website for details of coverage to date
  7. ^ "N.S. rural broadband deadline looming". CBC News. November 19, 2009. 
  8. ^ Myrden, Judy (8 June 2010). "Wireless in next 6 weeks". The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved 16 June 2010. [dead link]
  9. ^ http://thechronicleherald.ca/Business/1166625.html