Bell CEO’s broadband-connected cottage in Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., fuels bandwidth envy

Are you seriously OK with your Gov’t paying to help out multi-millionaires with your tax dollars? I sure hope not. If so, let me know so we can stop the madness.

In the municipality of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., about an hour’s drive north of Ottawa, one of the easiest ways to rile up local residents is to ask them about their internet connections.

Whether it’s through wireless service, satellite providers or copper lines, the usual response is that working out of home, having kids attend online classes or watching movies is a frustrating — and sometimes impossible — task.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that a small portion of the municipality lives in another world, digitally speaking, after getting hooked up to Bell Fibe in recent months. What makes matters even worse, according to some, is the fact that Bell CEO Mirko Bibic owns one of the cottages along the southern portion of Pemichangan Lake — which now has broadband access.

While the region is officially one of the poorest in Quebec, some of the cottages along Pemichangan are worth over $1 million, with many owners having primary residences in Ontario or the United States.

About 100 households on Pemichangan, the majority of cottages and homes on the southern side of the lake, have high-speed access through Bell Fibe — a service currently unavailable for the hundreds of other residences in the municipality of Lac-Sainte-Marie and in the surrounding area.  And one made even more important by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown orders.

Chantal Lamarche, prefect of the regional body called the MRC de la Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, said all residences in the area need to be “treated equally.” 

“The owners of residences that live here all year round should receive the same level of service as those who own a million-dollar cottage,” she said. “Everyone deserves an equitable treatment.”

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