High-speed internet ruling lauded by farmers, politicians
Access to reliable high speed internet is necessary no matter where you live.
Recognition of that fact by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has been applauded by politicians and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, which has been advocating for this basic necessity for rural Ontarians.
The funding announcement of up to $750 million over five years in addition to existing government programs to extend services to rural and remote areas will go a long way to bring rural residents, farms and businesses the basic telecommunications services necessary to participate in today’s digital economy. The CRTC also ruled that broadband internet with download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 10 Mbps will now be considered a “basic telecom service.”
OFA has been addressing the need for reliable, high speed broadband with government for a number of years. “Broadband internet access is a fundamental necessity for conducting business today, no matter where you are located,” says OFA President Keith Currie. “The previous $ 180 million of provincial and federal funding for SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) was a start and this CRTC ruling will secure the extension of high speed internet across rural Ontario.”
The CRTC reports 82 per cent of Canadians already have access to high download and upload speeds, but aren’t common in rural and northern areas. Access to this essential business service will enable economic development in rural Ontario. A stronger rural economy will also serve to alleviate housing and infrastructure challenges facing urban Ontario centres by attracting young families to communities outside of major urban Ontario cities.
“The CRTC’s ruling to deliver this vital infrastructure service will grow our farms, communities, and provincial economy while provid- ing equal educational opportunities to our next generation,” says Mr. Currie. “OFA looks forward to working with government in 2017 to deliver the high speed access to rural Ontarians and formalize this investment as an infrastructure essential.”
The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus has also lauded the CRTC’s ruling that mobile broadband and high speed Internet are essential services.
The EOWC will continue to work with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network on the improvement of cellular networks in order to ensure mobile broadband services.
“It is what we had hoped they would do,” Dave Burton, Chair of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, said of the CRTC’s decision. “Together both of our organizations have been working hard over these past eight years to close the gaps in internet services across the whole of our region,” he added.
“When we made our submissions to the Commission last April EORN urged them help ensure that rural people and rural businesses get the same type of access to high speed internet services that our urban neighbours enjoy,” stated Mr. Burton. “We asked that the commission also develop an ongoing fund to help organizations like ours to continue to work with the telecommunications industry and that is exactly what they have done.” said Burton.
EORN estimates that about one-sixth of areas in rural Eastern Ontario has a cellular dead zone. This lack of access to mobile calling and data is a risk to the region’s economic vitality, quality of life and public safety, the organization said.
EORN, which helped expand high-speed internet access in the region, is now seeking federal and provincial support for a public-private initiative valued at about $200 million. The project would cover some 99 per cent of the region, providing mobile access to 72,000 more homes and businesses as well as those who travel its highways.
“We need to build new towers, improve existing ones as well as add coverage and capacity and we are confident given our experience on the first EORN project that we can create another success partnership with private sector companies in our region,” observed Mr. Burton.
Other priorities for the EOWC are increased public safety and lobbying the province for the $3.7 billion in new municipal infrastructure.
At its annual inaugural meeting in Kingston recently, the wardens elected Mayor Robert Quaiff of Prince Edward County as the EOWC 2017 Chair.
Lanark County Warden Bill Dobson, also Reeve of the Township of Montague, was elected by the membership as the 2017 EOWC ViceChair.
The EOWC will continue to push for the expansion of natural gas to rural businesses, farms and communities as per its partnership with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, additional distribution capacity for hydroelectricity and a solution to increasing hydro costs and the continued implementation of the region’s economic development strategy, through the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council.
The caucus will continue to advocate for a solution to policing costs and a modernization of the current policing system, as well as provincial solutions to the legislative issues of joint and several liability and the interest arbitration system. “The EOWC remains concerned about the increasing costs of certain services in the region, particularly when we think about our residents and businesses and their ability to pay. This includes everything from infrastructure to hydroelectricity and cellular network improvements to natural gas expansion, and the EOWC will continue to work with its partners at the provincial and federal government levels for regulatory changes and cost relief across all sectors – as it has done successfully in the past,” said Mr. Quaiff.
“The EOWC will also continue working with its partners in the Eastern Ontario Mayors’ Caucus and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to advocate for legislative solutions that will reduce operational costs for municipalities. By working to alleviate the financial burden on the municipal sector, the EOWC aims to improve the conditions for growth and economic development,” noted Prescott-Russell Warden Gary Barton.