The NG Times Newspaper

As our lives have become increasingly technology reliant, residents of rural areas across the country have faced the “digital divide.”

Access to employment, education, and even a social life hinges on a reliable internet connection. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recommends a minimum connection of 50/10 Mbps. And only 46% of Canadians in rural areas had access to such a connection in 2019.

Since last year, the Municipality of North Grenville has been working to find ways to bridge this divide in Eastern Ontario. Mayor Peckford has been involved in the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s (EORN) Gig Project, lobbying for greater provincial and federal funding to help get underserved areas up to speed.

Of the project, Mayor Peckford said, “The urgency to invest in the Gig Project in Eastern Ontario is akin to the priority governments place on urban transit, without the same dollar figure. Quality of life, access to education and training, jobs, economic productivity, and the retention and expansion of local business will absolutely suffer unless we fix this problem for a generation now.”

While this funding is urgently required for our community, as well as the 113 other communities in the EORN, it is yet to be seen if it will come through, and how much of that funding will be allocated to North Grenville. Other options must be considered.

On July 5, members of the Community & Economic Development Advisory Committee met with consultants from CIP CommTech and Storm Internet to discuss the situation in North Grenville. Recommendations were informed by a survey that revealed that, “more than 90% of residential and 100% of commercial customers are unsatisfied with their current level of service.”

While residents of “downtown” areas in the Municipality, such as the core areas of Kemptville, Oxford Mills, or Oxford Station, are serviced at 50/10; households even slightly removed from those core areas are serviced with speeds as low as 5/1. A key finding of this survey was that, though respondents do care about affordability, reliability is what residents want and need.

Though prices for internet service across Canada are astronomical when compared to other developed countries, our residents are desperate enough to cough up the cash.

Mayor Peckford explained that two large Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Bell and Cogeco, self-drafted proposals for getting better connectivity to underserved areas. The Municipality issued letters of support for both proposals.

With this being said, more local ISPs, such as Storm Internet or Joe Computer, are key in ensuring access to all residents of the area. The smaller ISPs can get quicker local results, since their coverage area is smaller, and the business of a few rural clients is more significant to their business than it is to the larger ISPs.

Nonetheless, it seemed to be the hope of everyone in attendance at the meeting that the larger ISPs would go forward with their proposals, and perhaps rent tower space or fibre access allowances to the smaller ISPs.

A key piece in getting better service to underserved areas is involvement from the public and local businesses. CEDAC member Rick Tatchuk said, “We need to look at building more support out of the business community around these initiatives. And we have to fill the gap until we see the Gig Project come through.

But we can build pressure for the Gig Project, as well as some of these smaller initiatives, if we get greater engagement out of business in terms of their needs and priorities.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, great article, as a resident of rural North Grenville who lives on French Settlement Rd. only a few hundred metres from the lights of Walmart, my household is one of those serviced only with speeds of 5/1, albeit even that speed exists only on my monthly Internet bill. Working from home during the pandemic with these speeds has been difficult. Some, like Southgate Church, are lucky enough to have a good line of sight to local wireless ISP towers such as Storm or Xplornet but in most cases, wireless Internet is unreliable, over-subscribed and difficult to access if you have trees around you. To further add insult to injury, Bell managed to install wireline Fibe service to households further north on French Settlement (near Kettle Creek), but never bothered to cover the extra couple of kilometres to get to the end of the road. I’m sure this situation exists all over North Grenville (look at https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/sitt/bbmap/hm.html?lang=eng); newer developments have slightly better service yet most others are stuck with DSL using copper lines installed 50 years ago. What the article fails to mention is that many rural households are fed up with promises from Bell, Xplornet, EORN and others, and are pursuing SpaceX Starlink Internet service. If Starlink does work as promised (and so far, feedback from the first North Grenville beta users is very promising), we will all be waving good-bye to EORN and Canadian ISPs by the end of 2021, myself included. Wasn’t planning to pay $800 to start a new Internet service and $130 monthly after that, but what choice do I have? Starlink is offering a fairly reliable service of at least 75/25 and possibly much higher, which is far better than I can hope for from anyone else in the near future.

  2. If anyone is considering moving to North Grenville, and require internet for work or school, they are going to be in for a shock. The internet outside of Kemptville (unless in town or new subdivision) is dated, failing or non-existent. Politicians have no idea what to do, instead they go in circles doing the same thing, over and over.

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – Albert Einstein

    Instead of throwing more money into more studies, or EORN for that matter, why not start thinking outside of the box? Look at examples like this: https://mashable.com/article/how-indigenous-communities-build-their-own-internet in the US and Canada.

    The small ISPs are NOT going to solve this – people complain about the price of Starlink, but outfits like Joe’s and Storm come at a price. And what a price. Mayor, have you or your staff even looked at Joe’s packages lately? or Storm? Low quality internet, high costs, all to get a measly 10mbps. $54.95 for 3mbps down with Storm. Really?? Though we’ve been conditioned with such crap for internet that folks look at 5-10 as a luxury! Nope, Storm/Joe won’t be saving the day anytime soon. They’re gouging rural users as it is, have issues servicing lots with trees (umm.. err.. most of NG), and are a doomed industry.

    I was lucky to get Starlink earlier this year, definitely not my first choice and this is entirely due to the failure of government to use the funding already supplied over the years effectively. Municipal government, Provincial, Federal – useless. They’re going in circles with this mindset that Bell / Cogeco / Xplornet is going to solve the digital divide for them as soon as they give them their wishlist funding. Newsflash, they’re not. EORN has not brought anything new to the table in years, and won’t be changing the above status quo anytime soon. Enough giving Bell, Rogers, Xplornet more millions to provide the least possible service they can to rural userss.

    Was Starlink expensive? Initially an outlay of $800 yes. But long term I am able to save money due to cancelling Bell and Xplornet, am able to continue working and living in NG. For the price of a new TV I have internet that actually works and I don’t have to wait yet another decade for the Mayor and her fellow federal/provincial political cronies to figure out that out – with the end result being the same ole, same ole – a hefty donation to Bell/xPlornet shareholders.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here