On top of ev­ery­thing else…

Farm­ers strug­gle with sub­stan­dard cell and in­ter­net ser­vice

Truro Daily News - - COLCHESTER COUNTY - BY FRAM DINSHAW

Peter Morine faces daily tor­ment.

His in­ter­net speed is painfully slow and he of­ten can’t even send a sim­ple text mes­sage. But the sit­u­a­tion is es­pe­cially galling for the farmer from Bridge­wa­ter.

“For me, it’s al­most un­be­liev­able, be­cause I have a cell­phone tower on my land. If I was a good base­ball player I could al­most hit it – and we are still strug­gling with in­ter­net speed,” said Morine.

He com­plained that the cell­phone tower was “loaded,” with thou­sands of cus­tomers, mean­ing he can’t rely on it for ad­e­quate ser­vice, de­spite it be­ing a stone’s throw away. at of­ten means no calls or emails to his col­leagues and sup­pli­ers.

Morine was in Truro for the Nova Sco­tia Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture’s AGM last week, where other farm­ers warned that poor in­ter­net ser­vice is se­verely ham­per­ing their abil­ity to con­duct busi­ness.

For farmer Tim Fisher near Up­per Stewiacke, tex­ting his em­ploy­ees is also im­pos­si­ble, never mind an email or video-con­fer­ence call us­ing a ser­vice like Skype.

For that, Fisher must drive about 30 km into Brook­field from his farm, which he runs with his fam­ily and em­ploy­ees, as well as the Truro Agro­mart Ltd. store in Up­per Onslow.

Back at the farm, phone calls can only be made via land­line at lunchtime.

But Truro Agro­mart’s own­ers also need cell and in­ter­net ser­vice to re­view their ac­count books, con­tact their farm nutri­tion­ist or speak with sup­pli­ers.

eir busi­ness op­er­a­tions in­clude crops, home lawn and gar­den prod­ucts, as well as farm­ing ser­vices such as nu­tri­ent man­age­ment plan­ning, soil sam­pling and eld map­ping, among oth­ers.

“It makes me feel ter­ri­ble. I can’t run my busi­ness,” said Fisher. “I can’t com­mu­ni­cate with my em­ploy­ees, be­cause that’s how young peo­ple com­mu­ni­cate, you text back and forth.”

If any­thing, his cell and in­ter­net ser­vice has got­ten worse over the last few years, de­spite the provin­cial gov­ern­ment’s prom­ises of bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia.

His niece, Re­becca O’con­nell, said their farm was o ered only the low­est in­ter­net speed avail­able. She wanted the Nova Sco­tia Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture to col­lec­tively ad­vo­cate for farm­ers, like her, who are lack­ing vi­tal in­ter­net cov­er­age.

“Farm­ing is a busi­ness, so just like any other small or large busi­ness the in­ter­net is a huge part of run­ning it,” said O’con­nell.

It was a point echoed by MLA Larry Har­ri­son, who rep­re­sents Colch­ester-musquodoboit Val­ley for the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives and per­son­ally knows farm­ers in his re­gion who strug­gle with­out proper in­ter­net ser­vices.

“ ere are a lot of dead zones through­out the prov­ince. ere have been times when I’ve been on the phone and it’s gone dead,” said Har­ri­son. “It al­ways seems like the ru­ral ar­eas are the last to get what they re­ally, re­ally need.”

One pos­si­ble so­lu­tion to Nova Sco­tia’s in­ter­net woes may be found in ru­ral On­tario. ere, the South Western In­te­grated Fi­bre Tech­nol­ogy net­work is fund­ing the con­struc­tion of bre-op­tic broad­band in­fra­struc­ture after it re­ceived $180 mil­lion from both the On­tario and fed­eral gov­ern­ments in 2016.

All told, $300 mil­lion is be­ing spent to con­nect peo­ple in small towns and ru­ral ar­eas in south­ern On­tario and con­struc­tion work is ex­pected to be­gin next year.

Har­ri­son said Nova Sco­tia should re­search how other prov­inces solved their in­ter­net prob­lems, as bre-op­tic net­works may yet be a “wor­thy in­vest­ment.”

For now, Har­ri­son will keep push­ing for bet­ter ru­ral in­ter­net and cell cov­er­age for his con­stituents in the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture.

“We’ve men­tioned it and we’ve men­tioned it and we’ve men­tioned it,” he said.

FRAM DINSHAW/ TRURO NEWS

Farmer Re­becca O’con­nell and her un­cle Tim Fisher strug­gle with poor to non-ex­is­tent in­ter­net and cell cov­er­age at their farm near Up­per Stewiacke. They run the Truro Agro­mart Ltd. and were at the Nov. 29-30 Nova Sco­tia Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Truro, to­gether with dozens of other farm­ers from across the prov­ince.

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