No-go for fibre optics as anticipated
Bell Canada has abandoned plans to provide “world class” Wi-Fi to the 2,000 residents of Point Edward, six years after announcing it would spend more than $50 million for fibre-optics in the village and adjacent municipality of Sarnia.
On one side of the municipal border, Sarnians witnessed Bell crews digging up their boulevards for the past several years to connect them to fibre optics and the reliability and efficiency it provides.
Point Edward council never stopped pushing Bell Canada to fulfill its promise but was recently informed that plans to extend fibre optics to the village are shelved.
“After conducting a number of assessments, we unfortunately found that the area was too sensitive from an archaeological perspective to proceed with the project,” Bell spokesperson Jacqueline Michelis told The Journal in an email. She provided no further detail.
“I don’t understand that logic,” says a frustrated Coun. Greg Grimes. He and Point Edward CAO Jim Burns have been talking for months with a senior network manager at Bell in the belief that fibre optics would soon expand into Point Edward.
But their Bell contact abruptly told them a few weeks ago that fibre optics is off the table for the village and they would no longer be meeting.
Coun. Grimes says he was told by the senior network manager that Bell will not commit because of economic concerns.
“We had been told we were in their capital plan and then we got the ultimate goodbye,” he said. “It caught us off-guard.
“During our regular (phone) meetings, Bell staff did ask CAO Burns and myself about archaeological issues regarding the burial of cables,” Coun.Grimes continued. “Each time, we advised them that the village has a good relationship with Aamjiwnaang First Nation and that we could also provide (Bell) with contact info of consultants that the village used during projects like the splash pad construction or Monk Street park upgrades.”
Burns said he’s been asked by residents if village administration or council has impeded Bell from moving ahead.
“That’s not remotely true,” Burns said. “Our residents complain about dropped calls and interrupted Wi-Fi so it’s important to us to improve on that.
“When people worked from home during the pandemic, there were many problems with slow Wi-Fi and unreliable phone service.”
Coun. Grimes said he wonders if the decision-makers at Bell realize Point Edward is immediately adjacent to Sarnia.
“A homeowner in Sarnia will have FTTH (Fibre To The Home) high speed internet on one side of a road like Christina Street, and a homeowner in Point Edward won’t,” he said.
“A yellow line in the middle of the road separates those who have it from those who don’t. It’s like Bell brought their service right to our doorstep, then stopped.”
Coun. Grimes said council has told Bell that most of the area where their fibre optics would be buried is not a sensitive archaeological area. In the past, digs have unearthed indigenous artifacts and human remains, particularly on Point Edward’s waterfront and the non-residential side of St. Clair Street.
There’s no customers in those areas, Coun. Grimes said.
“The fact that Vink Networks recently buried cable in the village for an upcoming Cogeco cable upgrade brings their reason for abandoning our community into question.”
Currently, Bell connections in Point Edward are particular poor because there has been no upgrade of their above-ground wiring.
Local Bell customers complain that their landlines often stop working when it rains and that is of particular concern for seniors who may need to call 9-1-1 and can’t.
“So it becomes a safety issue,” said Coun. Grimes. “Bell is this big, national company. It seems they have forgotten about us.”
Approximately four years ago, village council decided to pay Bluewater Regional Network, which is a subsidiary of Bluewater Power that services larger users, to install fibre optics for use at all municipal facilities including the administration office, fire hall, sewage plant, public works building and the arena. Unreliable connectivity was a concern for village operations, Burns said.
As a result, some commercial areas along the Bluewater Regional Network route in Point Edward have access to fibre optic internet.