Norfolk hamlet has fear of missing out on internet upgrades

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Anyone familiar with internet lingo knows “FOMO” means “fear of missing out.”

A bad case of FOMO has gripped the hamlet of Bills Corners between Boston and Townsend Centre now that Rogers Communications is installing high-speed internet in the north-east quadrant of Norfolk County.

Areas that will soon have reliable internet include Bloomsburg, rural areas near Waterford, Wilsonville, Dundurn, Townsend Centre, Boston, and Bealton.

Noticeable by its absence is Bills Corners, which is not to be confused with the hamlet of Bill’s Corners on McDowell Road west of Simcoe.

The hamlet of Bills Corners – which lacks an apostrophe — is located at the intersection of Cockshutt Road and Townsend Road 6.

The installation of high-speed fibre-optic cable is funded by the Southwestern Internet Fibre Technology (SWIFT) initiative. SWIFT is a multi-year, multi-million dollar drive to bring reliable, high-speed internet to rural areas of Southwestern Ontario.

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Bank-rolling SWIFT are federal, provincial and municipal governments and a host of internet-service providers who are expanding their customer base.

“SWIFT has invested a significant amount of money in the development of reliable internet in the rural communities of Norfolk County,” Lee Robinson, Norfolk’s former general manager of public works, said in a deputation request to the county last week. “We ask Norfolk County to pass a resolution to direct SWIFT to include our hamlet in the current project.”

During her presentation to Norfolk council on Nov. 10, Robinson said she would have preferred to speak by video link from her home northeast of Waterford.

However, Robinson says internet service there has become unreliable since the previous provider – Silo – sold to a new company this summer.

Robinson said service has been spotty ever since. Had she tried to video-conference from home, Robinson said she would have expected to lose her council connection several times before she was through. Because of that, Robinson spoke by video link from a room elsewhere in Governor Simcoe Square.

“We just had a 40-hour outage,” Robinson said.

Robinson has spoken to her neighbours about the situation. They too are fed up and increasingly anxious as they watch contractors install reliable, high-speed fibre-optic cable in all crossroads communities surrounding Bills Corners, nearly all of which have fewer businesses and fewer households.

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Robinson has taken the matter up with Rogers, which told her to take it up with the SWIFT board of directors, who told her to take it up with Norfolk County as one of SWIFT’s municipal partners.

“I’m getting people pointing in a direction that leads in a circle,” Robinson said. “Rogers indicates it has to go through SWIFT because that’s how the area is being serviced.”

Vittoria Coun. Chris VanPaassen called a timeout when council began discussing Robinson’s request for a resolution encouraging Rogers to include Bills Corners in the current installation.

If council is going to do that, VanPaassen said, then why not include the other Bill’s Corners in his ward because they want reliable internet too. Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman asked council not to confuse the issue.

“We don’t need to make this any more complicated than it is,” Huffman said. “This is not a battle of the hamlets of Norfolk County.”

As a compromise, council approved a motion encouraging Rogers to service as many hamlet areas as it can, with a particular emphasis on underserviced hamlets adjacent to ongoing work.

Robinson is satisfied she got what she came for.

“I’m just looking for something that says Norfolk County has no objections to this,” she said.

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