Access to high-speed internet is a must for life and business for most people.
With more and more processes moving to cloud-based and remote access, businesses depend on reliable internet for bookkeeping, client management, scheduling, and meetings as well as applications like marketing and research. There are very few aspects of business that don’t have an online component. It also spans all business sectors, with rural sectors like agriculture and mining pushing for better connections so they can make better use of technology to make them more efficient and competitive.
Our personal lives are very similar. It’s where we interact socially, find entertainment, shop, make reservations, and attend school.
Yet our community, along with many others across the province, has been lacking in consistent, reliable high-speed internet access.
While the problem is more prevalent in rural areas, there are places within Peterborough’s city limits that are considered underserviced and have been put on a provincial priority list.
Recently, the Government of Ontario announced it had concluded its procurement process and signed agreements with eight different internet providers for its plan to expand broadband internet access.
Locally, this includes the City and all eight townships of Peterborough County as part of a deal with Rogers Communications Canada, Bell Canada, and Xplornet Communications worth $894.8 million. The agreements should provide an estimated 266,600 un- and under-serviced businesses and homes with high-speed broadband internet.
This deal will build on the ongoing efforts to increase connectivity. It follows years of advocacy from chambers of commerce, boards of trade, business improvement areas, municipalities, the Eastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus, industry associations, cottage associations, and many of the people who have struggled with internet access in their home or business. It’s largely a non-partisan issue with different governments passing on the broadband torch to the next government.
The issue isn’t about intention. There isn’t really any opposition. The issue is follow-through. This is part of a program that has been running for more than a decade. Progress has certainly been made over that time with many communities receiving or getting upgraded internet service thanks in part to government investments. But there are still 266,000 homes and businesses in Ontario struggling to interact with the modern world.
Adding further complexity is that the remaining areas left to service are likely the more difficult ones. Infrastructure projects like this tend to focus on the easy wins that provide the best bang for the buck off the start before making their way to the more complicated and sometimes hyperlocal issues.
The last couple of years have certainly added urgency to the situation as the need for online access moved ahead in leaps and bounds.
The Government of Ontario has set a target of connecting every corner of the province by 2025. For those without proper internet, that’s still three long years away.
Our advocacy efforts need to focus on keeping pressure on our government and internet providers to keep the momentum up. We need the continued voice of municipalities, businesses, organizations, and residents. Everyone should have a level playing field when it comes to accessing businesses, government services, schooling, social interaction.