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Lack of Internet killing South Shore businesses?

Shanna Joudrey, owner of Details Events & Design Studio, frowns as she tries to access the Internet. Like many people in rural Nova Scotia, she doesn’t have access to the basic Internet speeds outlined by the CRTC.
Shanna Joudrey, owner of Details Events & Design Studio, frowns as she tries to access the Internet. Like many people in rural Nova Scotia, she doesn’t have access to the basic Internet speeds outlined by the CRTC. - Josh Healey

‘I knew it was going to be bad but I didn’t know it was as bad as it was,’ says local owner

Shanna Joudrey knows what’s at stake; the survival of her business, like many entrepreneurs along the South Shore, depends on the Internet.

“I do the majority of my business online,” she said of her wedding planning service, Details Events & Design Studio, which she operates from her home in Branch LaHave.

“Having that social media presence is definitely where I get the majority of my work done.”

However, like 65 per cent of Lunenburg County residents, Joudrey doesn’t have adequate access to even the most basic level of Internet.

She said, until last year, her connection speeds were slower than dial-up — costing her time and money.

“I knew when kids (in the neighbourhood) were home from school. I really couldn’t do much of anything after that point,” said Joudrey.

As per CRTC, an authority on Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications, the basic minimum for Internet is set at 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads.

Although these minimums were set in 2016, many households along the South Shore fall far below these minimums or have no Internet at all; for example, dial-up speeds average around 1.5 Mbps.

Joudrey explained routine tasks like refreshing her Facebook page or checking her email were impossible.

“My business is continually growing so the less I can do online, the further I get behind,” she said.

Speeding up?

Things have improved over the last year. The Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL) launched an Internet pilot project in her area, which was projected to deliver improved accessibility to 288 homes in the Sweetland area.

Joudrey said her service has improved, although it is still short of CRTC’s standard.

She said she has installed a transmitter in her neighbour’s house because, given their position on a hill, they get better speeds.

“I’m totally reliant on my neighbours to make sure that works,” she said.

In fact, Joudrey said she was taken aback by the area’s Internet issues; although she is from Lunenburg County, she had worked in Toronto for a number of years before coming back to start her business.

“I didn’t even think about the Internet at that point,” she said of her return.

“I knew it was going to be bad but I didn’t know it was as bad as it was.”

Despite the improvements, Joudrey said people are going to be hesitant moving to the South Shore until the Internet is more accessible.

“We have people moving to the area but they’re not settling. They take their phone out of their pocket and number one, there’s no cell service. Secondly, there’s no internet service,” she said.

And until service improves, Joudrey said she is going to keep advocating for change: it has to if her business and businesses like hers are going to survive.

“Yes, my internet has gotten a little bit better than it was a year ago but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit still and be quiet,” she said.

@joshrjhealey/joshua.rj.healey@gmail.com

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