And according to the latest information from the province’s Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development (BTCR), it will be another six months or longer before some communities will be serviced.
In a prepared statement from minister Chris Mitchelmore, via e-mail exchange with The Packet — the department did not respond to our requests for telephone interviews — the department confirmed that EION/Icenet had been granted an extension on projects to service various communities around the island of Newfoundland.
Funding was announced for the projects on July 16, 2014, by Susan Sullivan, then minister responsible for rural development with the Progressive Conservative government.
Sullivan announced that EION had been contracted to make fixed wireless broadband access available to 63 communities, representing 1,936 households. Three other companies — Bell Aliant, Burgeo Broadcasting Systems and Great Northern Wireless, were contracted to provide broadband to another 18 communities.
However, contract negotiations with EION continued until November 2014 and a final contract was not signed until December 2014, six months after the initial announcement.
“The project completion date established in the December 2014 contract was December 31, 2015,” Mitchlemore explained, adding, “While a number of the communities are completed, others remain in progress.”
The minister added the department recently granted an extension to Icenet (EION) for communities that present significant technical reachability challenges (tough execution ground realities, frost line difficulties for installations etc.)
“Extensions to completion dates are only granted in cases where unforeseen technical issues arise,” he explained.
According to information provided by the department, only a handful of communities would see broadband service by the end of January.
They are communities on the north and south side of Smith’s Sound and include Harcourt to Burgoyne’s Cove on Smith’s Sound. Also included in the list for service by January are the communities of Snook’s Harbour, Aspen Brook, Britannia, Petley and Lower Lance Cove on Random Island. Those communities sit directly across the water from Burgoyne’s Cove, and would be serviced from the tower in Burgoyne’s Cove.
Other communities in this region are not expected to see broadband service from Icenet until the spring or summer of this year.
Through the deal with Icenet, the province provided a non-repayable contribution of 75 per cent of the project costs.
The government contribution comes with conditions, the department explained in the e-mail with The Packet.
“These contractual obligations include, but are not limited to technical requirements, regulatory compliance, operational resources, project milestones and project start and completion dates.”