If you don’t have high-speed Internet, it can be frustrating if you’re taking online courses.
That’s not a problem for many in the province, with more than 85 per cent of users having access to high-speed, according to government.
But Jennifer Stride and her daughter Jenna are in the tiny minority of users limited to the notoriously slow dial-up Internet in Point of Bay. It’s a hassle for her daughter, said Stride; Jenna is in Grade 11 and enrolled in two CDLI (Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation) courses.
The rest of her curriculum she completes at Botwood Collegiate. Other students at the school are doing the same, taking “regular” and online courses. However, most students live in communities such as Botwood, where high-speed is available. Point of Bay and nearby Phillips Head only have dial-up.
Stride worries that her daughter not having high-speed Internet will be a problem.
“It's a very timely process trying to log in, and then the page has timed-out, with students having to download files to complete work, and uploading their completed work to be corrected,” she said. “Students do not need this extra stress weighing them down. We need this issue dealt with.”
She added that if her daughter was to be absent from one of these classes due to illness or weather situations, it is her responsibility to catch up on her missed work, which she is unable to do, because of the lack of high-speed Internet.
If students without high-speed are sick and at home, that could keep them behind, according to Stride.
“She can get on (the Internet) here, but it will take three or four hours, or it will time out,” she explained. “I’m just nervous. She doesn’t need to have this in Grade 11.”
However, according to the CDLI, students do not need high-speed access at home to complete their school-based online courses. If a student is unable to get to school, and misses an online class for any reason, all CDLI classes are recorded
and can be accessed by that student, at the school, at any time during
the rest of the school year.
Mark Duggan, a communications director with Bell Aliant’s St. John’s office, admitted there are pockets with small populations that don’t have access to high-speed Internet. The issue is really an economic one, he explained, one that requires a significant investment in these communities.
“For any investment we make, we really have to make a business case. For communities where we can’t make a business case, we try to develop partnerships,” he explained. “We’ve accessed some funding with the provincial government through their broadband initiative.”
With Phillips Head and Point of Bay, Duggan said he couldn’t confirm if the company has plans for high-speed Internet. In each small rural community with high-speed, it’s a case of installing the equipment that provides it.
“It’s just not a matter of connecting into the line, because you have to be a certain distance from that equipment,” he said.
Point of Bay and other high-speed deprived communities could be getting the upgrade sooner rather than later. The province recently issued another call for more providers to expand services to communities still without broadband. On Monday, it issued a call for proposals under its Rural Broadband Initiative.