West Parry Sound fears getting left behind due to lack of Internet

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A recent article in the Parry Sound North Star caught my eye this week. Lis McWalter addressed the lack of reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet in West Parry Sound, and how it’s essential to have a strategy in place to connect residents and businesses.

She says that most people in West Parry Sound don’t have 5 Mbps down or 1 Mbps up, but the way the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada set up the criteria for funding eligibility, the area will be considered served under the CRTC standards.

That means West Parry Sound won’t qualify for funding, and it’s become clear through government initiatives that both provincial and federal funding is required in order to build out fibre broadband infrastructure.

McWalter hits the nail on the head when she writes:

“High-speed internet is essential to almost all interactions for home, businesses, institutions and industry. Governments are increasingly communicating and interacting online for communications, licences, applications, etc. Technological advances are driving more and more health-care services toward being provided online. Many educational curriculums are only available online.

“Banking and financial institutions services are online. Successful companies do business online globally. The trend toward online will continue to grow, and in many cases will be the only way the service is provided. Without the availability of high-speed internet, many of us will be left behind with inadequate services.”

According to the Growth of the Network Media Economy in Canada Report, November 2018, Canada is 27th out of 36 OECD countries when it comes to fibre-to-the-doorstep. Canada ranks low again in mobile data usage, placing 26th out of 35.

So, what needs to be done in order for Canada to step up its Internet game and connect important residents and businesses like those in West Parry Sound? McWalter lists a few steps that need to be taken, including recognizing the value of smaller, local ISPs who understand the needs of rural communities, revising the eligibility criteria for government funding, and changing policies and regulations that favour the “big three.”

Creating competition in the service provider field is key to addressing affordability. The more choices people have, the more competitive the pricing has to be.

McWalter has a few more steps that need to be taken, so I highly recommend giving her article a read!

Campbell Patterson