Calling for better service

Stephen Roberts
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Labrador residents hoping for better internet and cellular infrastructure

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Southern Labrador residents are growing frustrated with cell coverage and internet service.

North of West St. Modeste, residents in Southern Labrador continue to be without any cell coverage whatsoever while internet service throughout the entire region remains meagre according to many.

Cartwright-L’Anse-au-Clair MHA Lisa Dempster says half of the communities in her district have exceeded capacity for internet service. Therefore, broadband Internet will be unavailable for anyone moving into the towns or visiting.

Riverlodge Hotel part owner Keith Rumbolt is one such individual who is growing frustrated with the lack of infrastructure.

He believes the limited technology in the region is only providing more incentive for young people to move away.

Rumbolt says young people today are connected through social media.

“In my time, we would all gather in a house or shed,” he explains. “That was our version of social media. It’s no different now, only thing now they’re going online. If you don’t have the technology in our area for that, then you’re not inspiring people to stay around here.”

He notes how his daughter returns home from St. John’s for her schooling after five years. Rumbolt says she is not comfortable and gets very agitated with the lack of cell coverage and poor internet.

“That became her life,” he says. “And when you come home and that is taken away from you, then why would you want to stay here?”

In Lodge Bay, Rumbolt has his own satellite dish to run the Internet through, like a number of other citizens in the area. While that Internet is very slow, he says it is still faster than the high speed they’re provided.

“We need cell towers,” he declares.

“What they’re telling us is that the population base is not here,” he adds. “The population base might not be here but there is such thing as a commitment and an obligation to the customers that are already here.”

MHA Dempster does see changes coming by 2016 or 2017 with the completion of the subsea cable for the Muskrat Falls project. Communication lines will be placed underneath the water that will improve service in Southern Labrador.

Furthermore, on July 28, it was reported by the Globe and Mail that Xplornet Communications Inc. plans to deliver broadband internet service, with download speeds of 25 Mbps to 100 per cent of rural Canadians by July 2017.

This prospect piqued Dempster’s curiosity as she ponders what this may mean for her constituents on the coast of Labrador.

However, in the meantime, she believes cell coverage and Internet service needs to be improved before Nalcor and Xplornet step forward.

In a recent announcement, the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development said they are extending improved Internet service to 102 communities in the province. However, not one of those communities was located in Labrador.

Dempster could not abide by this.

“People are in a painful spot right now,” she says. “We know there are going to be wonderful improvements in 2016 and 2017 but we need to push this in the interim. There’s not a day I don’t get a call from someone frustrated by this.”

Organizations: Globe and Mail, Xplornet Communications, Department of Innovation Rural Development

Geographic location: Southern Labrador, Labrador, Lodge Bay

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