Tracey Gairns Brioux’s online business could seem like a godsend for many looking to keep their New Year’s fitness resolution.
The fitness instructor has been operating Reset:Breathe Fitness, a Facebook-based, subscriber fitness service for two years. Reset:Breathe has become a convenient alternative to a gym pass, allowing hundreds of busy Islanders to access guided 30-minute interval training, yoga or Pilates classes in their own homes. It has also become a thriving online community, reinforcing the stick-with-it motivation of subscribers.
There’s only one problem. In Gairns Brioux’s home in Emyvale, access to broadband internet is both expensive and unreliable.
Gairns Brioux says she has spent hours on the phone with representatives from Bell Canada.
"I had technicians out, I had people looking to see if I could get things installed. I just remember one day some guy coming out and saying 'I can't help you,'" she said.
"I literally was like 'I'm going to lose my whole business. What am I going to do?'"
For over a year, Gairns Brioux has been paying for a cellular data-based modem. This means that her total internet bill frequently tops $500 a month. Adding in the bill from her cellular data-plan, she estimates her monthly internet bill often adds up to $800 per month.
“Essentially my internet is as much as a mortgage payment,” she said.
Unfortunately, the heavy price tag has not solved her problem. Glitches with livestreams have remained, particularly since the fall.
Gairns Brioux has taken to livestreaming from the nearby Emyvale Rec Centre. But upload speeds are spotty there, too. As a result, she has had to stop livestreaming classes altogether, opting to pre-record her workouts.
Even uploading the 30-minute videos comes with challenges. Unless she opts to drive to coffee shops in Charlottetown, uploading the large files can take as long as eight hours.
Politicians on P.E.I. have long promised to improve rural internet in P.E.I.
In March 2019, days before calling a provincial election, then-Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced a $74 million project with Bell and Xplornet to bring 30,000 internet customers up to the CRTC standard of 50 megabits per second for downloads and 10 megabits per second for uploads by 2021
“The province is finalizing agreements with both companies for service delivery and funding dispersement,” a media release stated on March 15, 2019.
The release pledged an improvement of fibre or wireless broadband technology for 6,000 homes by Jan. 1, 2020, but with the change in government following last spring's election, this did not happen.
However, the Progressive Conservative government has pledged to follow-through with the same plan.
On Nov. 27, Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Minister Matthew MacKay told the legislature he planned to finalize the agreement with Bell within a week.
But last week, MacKay’s department said the agreement with Bell has not been signed.
“Things are still on track, legal agreements are being finalized,” read an emailed statement from a representative from the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture.
“We look forward to sharing more in the new year.”
When asked for her thoughts on the missed deadline, Gairns Brioux draws a breath before answering.
"I'm trying to stay optimistic and trying to be positive about it because I really need it to happen,” she said.
Gairns Brioux is hoping to see fewer reassurances and more realism from the current government.
“It would be nice if they just said ‘we’re behind,’” she said.