Villagers get themselves online by forming high-speed broadband co-op

Residents of a village in Nova Scotia, Canada, decided they’d had enough of slow internet speeds – and set up their own broadband co-op to fix the problem....

Residents of a village in Nova Scotia, Canada, decided they’d had enough of slow internet speeds – and set up their own broadband co-op to fix the problem.

Lawrencetown Community Development Co-operative started connecting people in and around the village of Lawrencetown to the wireless broadband service on March 24.

Within two days, 147 customers had signed up for the service, which can accommodate around 800 users.

The co-op’s vice president Lynn Roscoe told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the first thing she did after setting up the service at home was to livestream a motorcycle race from Qatar.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “We’re used to running it with a very slow startup and pixelation and hesitations and that sort of thing, and it was beautiful. It was up instantly and the high definition was incredible.”

She connects to the service through a dish in her home, facing one of two 27-metre towers the co-op has installed.

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When the weather improves, Roscoe plans to move the dish outside, which will further improve the quality of the service.

She has also installed the service at the office of her software development company, which she says had been put at a disadvantage by slow broadband speeds.

Brian Reid, chairman of the town’s  public works committee and one of the directors of the co-operative, said the co-op model makes sense because it can avoid competing directly with the private sector.

Subscribers to the co-op are also owners, which means they stand to benefit financially if all goes well.

“What’s nice about this arrangement is that the profits stay in the community,” Reid told CBC.

He said there were already plans to expand the network, with a third tower due to for installation and three more in the planning stage.

The initial membership fee to join the co-operative is $100; monthly range from $60- $100 a month.

The project has cost approximately $200,000 to date, with contributions from the village and the federal government and most of the work done by volunteers.

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