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Nova Scotians who live in rural areas that are difficult to connect online are being offered a one-time rebate of up to $1,000 to acquire satellite internet.

Economic Development Minister Susan Corkum-Greek said Friday that $8.5-million is being invested in a new rebate program that will initially be made available to about 3,700 homes and businesses where connection to the internet is not currently possible.

Corkum-Greek said the areas are in isolated pockets scattered across the province.

“The reality is internet is no longer optional,” the minister said. “For most of us, it is a vital service in today’s world.”

Corkum-Greek said satellite provider Starlink is currently the only company that can meet the required minimum download and upload speed targets set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Other providers will be welcome to participate in the rebate program once they meet the minimum requirements of 50 megabytes per second for download and 10 megabytes per second for upload, the minister said.

Corkum-Greek mentioned New Brunswick-based Xplornet as one of the companies looking at expanding its satellite broadband capacity.

“I will be very glad when there are certainly additional choices for the consumer, as I believe that is always a good thing,” she said.

Starlink is owned by billionaire Elon Musk and according to the company’s website its hardware costs $759, while the service is $140 a month.

Corkum-Greek said the rebate would cover the cost of acquiring and installing the network’s hardware. She noted that the program contains millions more in funding than the initial $3.7-million on offer to 3,700 homes and businesses. “We want to find out how much uptake there is in this phase and then we will look at what we can do for others in Nova Scotia,” she said.

According to the province, about 90 per cent of Nova Scotians have access to high-speed internet with a goal of getting 99.5 per cent online by the end of 2023.

Corkum Greek said people can check their eligibility for the program on Develop Nova Scotia’s website beginning Tuesday by entering their address. The website will then indicate whether they live in one of areas targeted for the rebate.

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