Equitable access to the Internet should be a top priority for Toronto’s mayoral candidates

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Toronto’s municipal election has been a roller coaster with wild ups and downs involving the premier Doug Ford, the Supreme Court, and a tight mayoral race With all the politics and controversy swirling around, I’m hoping the primary purpose of all this - to improve our city - isn’t getting lost.   

I love Toronto and I’m proud to call it my second home, but transit can be better (understatement), our roads need improvement, housing costs are out of control, gun violence is on the rise, and I’d be lying if I said I always feel safe biking downtown.

One pressing issue I haven’t heard any candidates discuss, at a councillor level or mayoral, is the extremely expensive and unreliable Internet access plaguing our households, businesses, and schools.    

CPC advises municipalities on why and how to build municipal fibre-optic and wireless networks. We regularly prepare business cases, business plans, marketing plans, project plans and funding applications for our clients. Toronto may be exploding in the tech scene, but we know not everyone has equitable access.

Just imagine if every Torontonian had equitable access to the Internet. This translates into an affordable and accessible fibre-optic connection, a WiFi connection and a LTE/5G connection to the Internet. Equitable access to the Internet is increasingly a determinant of one’s equal access to healthcare, education, government and market places.

If you’re going to find a job, start a business, connect to your enterprise network, receive a healthcare consult, take a university course, upload your high school homework or pay your taxes, you actually have a Charter Right to an equitably performing and affordable Internet connection, even though you don’t know it.  

For so many of our socio-economically or physically and mentally challenged citizens, equitable access to the Internet is a pipe dream because incumbent telecom companies are investing in higher income neighbourhoods with the “right” demographic profiles. For this reason, many of our businesses and public sector organizations can’t compete with their better connected global peers in places like Barcelona, Stockholm, Singapore and San Jose.

Equitable access to the Internet for everyone translates into huge capital and operating savings for the City of Toronto. For example, equitable Internet access means people travel less from the suburbs to downtown or across town because they don’t have to do so to meet their peers, customers or suppliers in person as often. This lowers greenhouse gas emissions and results in less wear and tear on roads and transit infrastructure. Longer life spans for transportation infrastructure means lower costs for the City of Toronto.  

Connected traffic signals and street lights provide better security and more efficient centrally managed transportation, improving transit, traffic management, and street parking, thereby reducing congestion. Intelligent street infrastructure can decrease GHG in downtown metros by approximately 30%. This also equals better navigation for EMS and police, which saves lives and money, and it leads to higher productivity too because citizens aren’t sitting in traffic for half of their lives.

Access to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet affects us all in ways that you may not even know, which is why I’d like to see ubiquitous and equitable access to the Internet for every Torontonian be a priority in the mayoral platforms.

Campbell Patterson