Nova Scotia Seafood Companies Say ‘Extremely Frustrating’ Internet Service Affects Businesses
When Osborne Burke wants to email a color brochure to a client in Asia of his seafood processing company in northern Cape Breton, he first tells everyone in the office to turn off their computers.
Then he asks the neighboring business – a local pharmacy – to do the same.
Burke, managing director of Victoria Co-operative Fisheries in New Haven, said his company’s slow Internet service “had enough free time” for the email to go to the customer’s inbox.
“It is extremely frustrating to try to do international business and our clients cannot understand why we cannot send them a document or process them electronically,” he said.
The lobster and snow crab processor employs 130 people with annual sales of between $ 30 million and $ 40 million, and is one of many seafood processors and aquaculture companies that have awarded their service. Internet and cell phones rated poorly in a recent industry survey.
Nova Scotia is expanding high-speed Internet access to rural parts of the province under a $ 193 million program.
Given the economic importance of the industry, stakeholders in the seafood and aquaculture industry believe the sector should be a priority for high-speed internet, but the Crown agency charged of rural Internet expansion says the need is too great across the province to foster another – even the province’s main export commodity.
“It would be very difficult to place one need, even a very important sector, above the others. They are all important, ”said Jennifer Angel, CEO of Develop Nova Scotia.
“We’ve tasked our private sector ISP partners to tell us the most efficient way to roll it out across the province, so we can get everyone on board as quickly as possible.
As part of the industry survey, members of the Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance and the Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia were asked to rate their Internet and cellular service on a scale of one to five, with one being the most low. They were also asked to provide upload and download speeds.
The survey received responses from 32 seafood companies and 38 aquaculture companies this spring.
More than a third of the seafood processors who responded gave low marks for the quality of the internet, and more than half were not satisfied with their cell service, according to the results, which were sent to the Internet. provincial government and shared with CBC News.
Members of the aquaculture industry were slightly more satisfied, although nine companies rated their internet service lower. Three said they were unable to get their internet working.
The Nova Scotia Aquaculture Association said it had to contact several members by phone because the email informing them of the internet investigation was unsuccessful.
“It’s maddening on a daily basis,” said Stewart Lamont of Tangier Lobster on the east coast. “We’re asked to participate in Zoom calls and various conference calls, and there are times when that really doesn’t work. So this has an impact on all aspects of our business.
Lamont said customers in Asia need multiple documents with attachments for each transaction, which can be extremely slow. It reported an internet download speed of 1.68 Mbps – fast enough for basic web browsing and sending emails. His company’s download speed is 0.49 Mbps, which is not good enough for webcam video streams.
The province has said it aims to expand high-speed internet coverage to 99% of Nova Scotia by 2023 – “for a lifetime,” Lamont said.
“This is of particular concern because we are an hour and 10 minute drive from Spring Garden Road in Halifax. So we’re not in the hinterland, but our service is really unsanitary, ”he said.
The region’s largest aquaculture company didn’t wait for the provincial government.
In 2017, Cooke Aquaculture installed a 30-meter tower in Shelburne for wireless remote feeding and live cameras at salmon farming sites in the region.
In collaboration with Bell Canada, Cooke erected six cell phone towers in Nova Scotia – and several others in other Atlantic provinces – where internet connectivity did not exist or was insufficient to support its breeding operations. of salmon.
Sandy Point Lobster in the Shelburne area just received fiber optic Internet access from Bell in February as part of the Develop Nova Scotia rollout.
Factory engineer Bob Isaksen said the difference is night and day. He said there were times before the upgrades that the business would be offline all day.
This was particularly problematic when it came to shipping lobsters across the border.
“We had to send documents to our customs brokers and if that couldn’t happen, the trucks couldn’t cross the border,” Isaksen said. “It was really difficult trying to operate with a very, very slow Internet.”