rural internet- by Mark Reusser, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Failure to plan was cited by Canada’s Auditor General as the reason the federal government has not delivered broadband access to rural and remote areas of the country. Included in the report to Parliament in late November, the Auditor General said the lack of a national strategy has hampered the implementation of the Liberal government’s Connection to Innovate program. The federal broadband program had previously allocated $500 million over five years, beginning in 2016, to extend broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across Canada.

The Auditor General’s report also stated that a government analysis in 2013 found that running high-speed internet to 99 per cent of Canadians would cost between $1.1 and $1.7 billion. Without proper planning and budget allocation it’s unlikely the federal government will deliver on its promise to connect the country.

High speed connectivity is a necessity, no matter where you live, and Canadians shouldn’t be disadvantaged for living and working in rural or remote communities. Without high speed internet, people can lose out on everything from education and job opportunities to medical treatment and business development.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has long advocated for high speed connections across all areas of Ontario, especially rural. Reliable internet is necessary to support farmers and rural communities – without it our businesses, residents and schools are at a competitive disadvantage. Farmers rely on proper broadband connection to make business decisions, operate on-farm technology, look for marketing options for farm products, access continuing education, gather farm management information and communicate with the community.

OFA agrees with the Auditor General’s report recommendation that says the federal government should set a standard for the minimum amount of internet connectivity Canadians can expect in different parts of the county, and work on a plan from there.

Two years ago, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared broadband internet an essential telecommunications service. OFA believes this basic service needs to be accessible to everyone, no matter where you live. OFA will continue working with all levels of government to prioritize rural and remote access to reliable high speed internet. We need a better broadband plan for rural Ontario and we need it now.