09/19/2012 11:13 EDT | Updated 11/19/2012 05:12 EST

SaskTel under fire for loss of high-speed Internet for rural customers

REGINA - A high-speed battle is shaping up between the critic for Sasktel and the minister responsible for the Crown utility.

It involves a recent move by the federal government to cancel a high-speed Internet service that was providing coverage for thousands of rural residents.

NDP MLA Buckley Belanger says the Saskatchewan Party government has failed to stand up for rural Saskatchewan and he wants to know why.

He says the elimination of the wireless broadband Internet is leaving families and businesses scrambling to find a private-sector replacement.

SaskTel minister Don McMorris says Belanger is a little short on facts — Industry Canada has taken the frequency being used and SaskTel has no choice.

Belanger concedes that may be true but he says SaskTel knew it was coming about 18 months ago and told no one.

"They obviously want to downplay this tremendously because the fact of the matter is, good news —- they'll pump that out steady and make sure absolutely everyone and their dog sees it.

"But something of this nature, they cleverly disguise and hide it in their website and they don't tell people about it. That is the issue."

Belanger adds many rural customers bought expensive new equipment for the service, which will no longer be available.