Jack Hammond struggled with the same thing many rural East Gwillimbury residents did — crappy and expensive internet.
Due to the location of his home north of Mount Albert in the country and the accompanying topography, getting good service from Bell or Rogers is a challenge.
“In my area, virtually everyone has bad internet,” he said.
When he first moved to the area in 2015 he struggled to get DSL and later turned to wireless.
But no matter how much he paid or whatever modem he had, Hammond couldn’t seem to get reliable service.
That turned into an even bigger problem during the pandemic as Hammond’s wife Lisa is a teacher and needed reliable service for online schooling.
The wireless internet from Bell was slow and glitchy because Hammond said they overbooked the tower closest to them. “We hadn’t had consistent internet for months,” Hammond said.
Earlier this month Hammond finally had enough and canceled it altogether. “The primary issue for us was reliability. We wanted to use the service we were paying for.”
Little did Hammond know that there was a solution to his internet problem right around the corner.
Cosmin Pop specializes in delivering high-speed internet to those hard-to-serve places that the big telecommunications giants Bell and Rogers struggle to reach. The president of FiberSpeed was recommended to Hammond by people in the area. Within a couple of hours after visiting Hammond’s house, Pop had everything hooked up and things were ready to go.
Hammond couldn’t believe it. “It was like lightning. There was no lag,” he said.
FiberSpeed has made inroads in rural areas around Mount Albert including Sandford and Zephyr. Pop also was able to provide high-speed service to residents in the Fairbairn Gate neighborhood in East Gwillimbury after a resident took matters into his own hands and had a 96-foot tower built on his property.
But Pop says a slow bureaucracy particularly at York Region and the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) is slowing down the arrival of fast internet for too many rural residents.
As he tries to expand service to various underserved areas in the municipality Pop said applications can sit unanswered for months which means another year of poor service for many residents.
He mentioned trying to get an antenna on the Queensville water tower since 2019 but facing multiple challenges including being charged the same fees as companies like Bell and Rogers.
“It’s tough for the little guy,” he said. “It’s hard for us to cope with unreasonable costs.”
The demand is there, Pop said. Virtually all of the 30 homes in the Fairbairn Gate subdivision have signed on. Hammond is allowing Pop to put relays on his antenna to provide service to his neighbors.
Better internet service does appear on its way to many in East Gwillimbury. Last year Bell announced plans to invest $17 million to lay high-speed fiber cable in the town with the goal of 95 percent service coverage by the end of 2022 — with 80 percent fiber and 15 percent wireless.
The town is also working to develop a plan to provide service to around 300 homes in six pockets that remain underserved.
At a council meeting last year East Gwillimbury Director of Economic Development Margot Begin said the town will investigate ways to fund the $350,000 to service the six underserved pockets.
Ward 2 Coun. Tara Roy-DiClemente said for years high-speed internet seemed like a very complex issue that was difficult to solve.
“This is really scoped down for us and doesn’t seem quite so insurmountable,” she said, adding things like a local improvement charge could be considered for the underserved areas.
As for Hammond, he’s just thankful someone was able to solve the problem he’s been dealing with for years.
“The will is there and somebody is trying to fill it,” he said
Story behind the story: Reporter Simon Martin went to see how one rural resident in East Gwillimbury fixed his slow internet problem.