A perfect example of how high-speed Internet can save lives

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Last weekend, I came across an article about Huawei moving forward with plans to improve rural Internet, despite controversy surrounding spying allegations.

This is how the article written by Laura Kane started: “As wildfires raged near the central British Columbia community of Lac la Hache, emergency officials struggled to transmit life-saving information to residents.”

She continues, writing that a poor Internet connection prevented the downloading of maps marking the locations of dangerous wildfires. Every second counts in an emergency. It’s frustrating when you’re waiting forever for a huge file at the office, but imagine you were awaiting the location of a fire that could destroy a community.

A trial broadband project is currently being conducted in Lac la Hache by ABC Communications. Huawei is providing the Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output antenna (MIMO) Rural Broadband equipment, and ABC is providing the labour. Huawei claims there is no financial incentive for them, other than feedback on how to move forward with product development.

In the article, the CEO of ABC says that Ericsson and Nokia don’t target rural markets, so he believes that ABC basically has no choice but to partner with Huawei for the equipment required to deliver high-speed Internet to the rural region.

One of the main reasons Ericsson and Nokia don’t target rural markets is because they believe more money can be made in urban regions where there are more people.

I do want to point out though that there are other equipment providers. For example, Dragonwave, a Canadian company based in Ottawa, provides gear appropriate for rural communities. Dragonwave is used to provide Internet service to rural schools in Eastern Ontario.  And Redline and Ruckus are two other manufacturers with rural deployments.

The underlying point is that the Government of Canada and telecom providers have made huge bets on Huawei because it is affordable compared to Cisco or Nokia, and because Huawei has provided millions of dollars to Canadian universities to fund research. Then Huawei has monetized the IP and turned it into billions of dollars in their own pockets, allowing them to buy market share quickly. 

Huawei has risen to the number two network provider in the world in a few short years based on this two-pronged strategy.  And they are sworn to provide intelligence to the Chinese government when asked.  Nonetheless, Bell and Telus are pressuring the federal government big time not to disqualify Huawei,  while the U.S. government is pressuring Canada to ban Huawei.  With a federal election looming, the situation is potentially explosive, which may explain why the federal government is taking so long to make a decision. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, one’s access to a reliable and affordable high-speed fibre Internet connection is a determinant of one’s access to education, government services, health care, and all the online tools that those in urban areas leverage every day in school, business, and in personal use.

Notwithstanding the potential risks, I’m happy to see Lac la Hache moving forward with its rural strategy because if I had to choose between their emergency officials saving lives or twiddling their thumbs while a file downloaded, I’d choose the former.

Campbell Patterson