Acclaimed N.S. musician takes on province, city in proposed class-action lawsuit over slow rural internet
COOKS BROOK, N.S. -- Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, award-winning singer and musician J.P. Cormier has been trying to make up for the loss of live concerts, with a roster of online performances.
But he says the lack of high-speed internet in his area, something he has called "dismal," is making it increasingly difficult to keep up with the rest of the connected world.
He recently invested in the extra cost of an LTE hub, which turns cell signal into Wi-Fi to try to beef up his sluggish internet service. That service normally provides him with upload speeds well below the federal CRTC minimum standard of 10 Mbps.
But his LTE hub can only get a good signal while balanced precariously on the railing on the front deck of his studio.
"So when the weather changes," Cormier says, "We're done; no more internet."
His frustration has led Cormier to become a representative plaintiff in an intended proposed class-action lawsuit against the municipality of Halifax, the province of Nova Scotia, and Develop Nova Scotia. Develop Nova Scotia is the Crown corporation tasked with the job of getting the province's rural internet up to speed, with a $193 million budget to get the job done.
"And when Develop Nova Scotia is touting a certain level and not delivering," says Cormier, "and still spending the money anyway, that's not acceptable."
Cormier's lawyer, Rob Pineo of Patterson Law, has served the intended defendants with the 60-day notice required before the proposed lawsuit is filed in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in an application to be certified.
With the matter before the courts, none of the intended defendants would comment on the proposed lawsuit.
But a spokesperson with Develop Nova Scotia did respond in an email to overall concerns about high-speed internet service in rural areas.
"Our ISP partners are moving as fast as they can to build these new networks," writes Develop NS marketing and communications manager Deborah Page. "We recognize it can't come soon enough, but we are working hard to make it happen as quickly as possible."
Cormier takes issue with the performance of some of those internet service providers so far.
"The mandate (of Develop Nova Scotia) says all of those partners have to be vetted (to be) providing a 50 (Mbps) down, 10 (Mbps) up service," says Cormier. "Twelve of those companies have never provided that type of service, ever."
Page says Cormier's community, Cooks Brook, is on the list for improvements, with an update to come next month after a second round of proposals to address underserved communities.
Cormier says the province has already been far too slow to provide high-speed internet to those whose livelihoods depend on it, now more than ever.