Clarification on expanded broadband services

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Local internet supplier Storm Internet Services sent out a press release last week in response to Bell Canada, who had announced that they were filling a broadband internet service “gap” in Eastern Ontario.

“We’re very concerned that residents of those communities may have received the erroneous impression that Bell Canada’s planned entry into the fixed, wireless broadband marketplace represents the arrival of something that didn’t exist before and somehow fills a void,” says Storm Internet Services VP Operations and Sales Michel Lalonde.

According to the press release, Storm started providing internet services to rural areas in 1996. Since then, Storm has grown to provide high speed internet access across 8,000 square kms of the Ottawa Valley and beyond. “We’re a local Eastern Ontario company, employing local people, and we service our clientele very, very well,” Michel says. “It’s a key reason we’re here and thriving after almost 25 years in business.”

Storm Internet provided a map of the area they cover, which encompasses many of the places the new Bell internet is now servicing. Unfortunately, Bell was not able to provide a map of their service area, even though they had one for the official announcement of their new rural service a few weeks ago. It is not clear whether Bell is actually filling a need, or whether they are simply providing another option for rural residents in Eastern Ontario.

“We wouldn’t comment on another company’s services,” Bell Canada told the North Grenville Times when asked to comment on Storm’s news release.

That being said, it is clear that, even with Storm Internet and Bell, there are definitely underserved areas in Eastern Ontario. The original article about Bell’s announcement sparked discussion on Facebook and on the NG Times website, with several people asking whether Bell’s new product would be available in their area. “Any news for Frontenac County and/or those residents north of highway 7?” wrote NG Times reader, Linda MacDonald. “I’m in Sharbot Lake (½ hour west of Perth), where we (supposedly) have high speed. It’s provided by our very own telephone company (North Frontenac Telephone Company), whose server, as the kids say, sucks.”

Another reader asked whether the service will be available for customers on Rideau Ferry Road outside Perth, which has little to no high-speed internet available.

Storm’s VP says they are not afraid of a little competition. “We welcome the competition from Bell, quite frankly,” Michel says, noting that their service is notably superior to Bell’s offerings. He also added that local politicians should be concerned about the level of mobile wireless service in Eastern Ontario. He suggests these policy makers would do well “to ask Bell how piggybacking its new service on to its existing cellular LTE network won’t cause undue strain on that critical mobile infrastructure.”

The same issue was raised at the Merrickville announcement by Bell. Warden of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, and Mayor of Edwardsburgh-Cardinal, Pat Sayeau, brought it up. He pointed out that the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) is trying to expand and close the gaps in the region’s cell phone coverage, and that he hoped Bell’s new wireless broadband service would not affect their continued interest in the area’s mobile needs as well.

Bell is encouraging people who are wondering whether the new broadband internet is available in their area to visit their website, where residents can plug in their address and see if they are included in the scope of the service. Anyone interested in Storm Internet can also visit their website.

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