An equal digital playing field


Rural Ontario often appears to be an afterthought for the provincial government when it comes to things like infrastructure spending. This is nothing new to anyone who has lived in rural Eastern Ontario. However, there’s a more recent type of infrastructure that’s becoming ever more and more critical, and it’s even completely non-existent in some rural areas. That infrastructure is broadband (high-speed) internet service.

When most people think of infrastructure, they usually think of roads, bridges, and water resource systems, etc. One could argue that broadband has become just as important and that governments should be investing significant amounts of money in it as well. You may be thinking that cities and towns are already serviced by private internet providers of all shapes and sizes, from Bell to Joe Computer, so why does government need to spend tax dollars on this? Unfortunately, a business case can’t be made for private companies to install fibre optics networks (which carry broadband) in rural areas, where there may be sparse populations and significant distances between customers. However, just because private enterprise won’t do it, doesn’t mean that there’s still not a very serious need for it.

There are many reasons why it’s important to invest in broadband for rural areas. From making it difficult to sell a house or property because of no high-speed internet, to reducing agricultural technology options for farms and agricultural businesses that could dramatically help them improve efficiency and reduce costs. Due to the fact that the internet has become so important in so many aspects of our lives, it stands to reason that a lack of broadband could contribute to the demise of some rural communities, because they will become less desirable to live, work, and operate a business in over time. We’re already losing family farms, as some members of the next generation choose a different career and life path. We need to attract people to the rural areas and encourage them to begin farming and start their own businesses. That would be very difficult to do without high-speed internet.

With the rapid advancement of technology, a whole new industrial revolution is believed to be taking place (called “Industry 4.0” according to BDC Economist Pierre Cleroux). This means that, with broadband internet service, small to mid-size businesses could potentially consider non-traditional (rural) areas to invest in, because of the relatively low price of land. Plainly, this won’t happen without broadband service, which has become an absolute must-have in the business world. In other words, rural Ontario is being left behind and is at a serious disadvantage in trying to attract investment and cultivate economic growth. It is challenging enough these days for rural areas, but when you can’t access essential services like high-speed internet, it makes it incredibly difficult to create jobs and encourage residential growth.

There are areas of North Grenville that currently don’t have high-speed internet. Knowing how important this is to economic and residential development, you would think it would be one of the key topics of conversation at the council table both at the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, and in North Grenville itself. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case. Without it, the economic advantage that the larger urban areas enjoy will only continue to grow and the rural areas will be further left behind.


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