High-speed Internet project in final stages 0
Haliburton County residents who want high-speed Internet access sooner rather than later will have to wait a while longer to find out if they'll get the best possible service, or have to settle for something less.
The Eastern Ontario Regional Network project (EORN), which is bringing broadband Internet to underserved parts of the region, including Haliburton County, is in its final stages, communications officer Lisa Severson told the audience at an Ideas Day sponsored by the Haliburton County Development Corporation last Tuesday. When the Haliburton portion of the project is completed in 2013, 8,100 homes in the area will have access to 10 megabit per second Internet service, while a further 11,100 homes will be offered six to10 mps connectivity. For homes and cottages that don't get those service options, satellite Internet will be the only option, and connectivity will be limited to a maximum download speed, under ideal conditions, of up to one mps. (With satellite service, weather conditions can affect reception and upload speeds are typically slower than download. Satellite service also requires the purchase of hardware, and monthly fees are higher than for fibre optic Internet services.)
When the project is completed sometime next year, 85 per cent of homes and cottages in the county will have the option of the highest connectivity speeds. A further 10 per cent will get a somewhat slower service option. For the remaining five per cent, the only option will be satellite Internet through Xplornet, the provider contracted in the EORN project.
While many people are anxious to know what level of service will be available to them when the project is completed, neither Severson nor two Bell Aliant representatives who also were present, could provide specific details about coverage.
The project website, EORN.ca, includes a service locator tool, but at present it does not work for the Haliburton County portion of the project. The limitation stems from the fact that an agreement has not been reached between Google, which displays the locator data, and the organization which provides data for Haliburton County's GIS mapping system. It's unknown if this matter will be resolved in the near future, allowing the service locator function to be useful for Haliburton County property owners.
In the meantime, Severson said, EORN has negotiated an agreement with Xplornet which allows local residents to escape from their satellite contract if higher speed connectivity becomes available and more than a year remains in the service agreement. However, an audience member pointed out that the contract he was offered by Xplornet did not include that provision, which is specific to the eastern Ontario region. Severson agreed to contact Xplornet about the matter.
Asked if the network was being built to meet future needs rather than current standards, Severson and her Bell engineer colleagues assured the audience that capacities will equal what is available anywhere else in Ontario, as will the pricing structure.
Earlier in her presentation, Severson outlined the dramatic growth the Internet is experiencing. By 2014, she said, Internet bandwidth demand will be four times larger than it was in 2009. A dramatic example of demand growth is the movie streaming company Netflix which did not have a presence in Canada until relatively recently, and which now consumes 24 per cent of all bandwidth use in Canada.
By 2020, she said, it is anticipated that each Canadian will own or use multiple devices linked to the Internet, including refrigerators and other home systems and appliances.
The importance of high-speed Internet for as yet nascent but potentially beneficial applications was emphasized in a later presentation to the Ideas audience by Chancellor Crawford and Sarah Crawford, executives of QoC Health Inc., a health care technology company. They explained how smartphones and computer tablets can play a role in reducing hospital readmissions for patients recovering from major surgeries. In one test, involving 60 patients and three surgeons who monitored them over a 30 day recovery period, patients used a smartphone or tablet to take pictures of their incisions daily and send them to their surgeon, who could assess whether the healing process was normal, or whether further intervention was needed. The link also allowed patients to get information about dietary considerations, exercises, and other steps that could aid the recovery. In the test Crawford and Sharpe described, three of the patients required antibiotics to cure infections the surgeons spotted in the photos. Without that quick intervention, complications could have sent the patients back to hospital.
The executives believe widespread use of technological links between patients and health service providors, made possible in part by access to upgraded Internet service, would reduce hospital readmissions and save money.