Central Lambton politicians say declaring Internet access a basic service is good, but they’re not hopeful it will solve any of their immediate problems.
The Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) recently declared Internet a basic service telling internet providers they should offer customers in every part of the country download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 10 megabits. The commission says everyone should also have the option to unlimited data use.
It’s welcome news for mayors in rural municipalities who have struggled to provide services for residents.
Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott says rural municipalities and people in agriculture have been talking about the lack of Internet access to do business for some time. “This restores my hope that the federal government still values all sectors of the economy including agriculture,” he says.
Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad also calls it good news for his municipality. “It gives us a little more confidence in the SWIFT plan that the government is going to back up,” he says.
For several years, wardens in southwestern Ontario have been promoting a regional fibre optic network. Both the federal and provincial government committed cash to the program. Many politicians are concerned it will take some time to put the fibre in the ground and get it out to the rural areas where often Internet connections are sketchy at best.
Both Dawn-Euphemia and Enniskillen have put a lot of effort into getting reliable Internet in their communities.
In Enniskillen, Marriott says about half the people now can make a connection while in Dawn-Euphemia most have some service, but Broad says it isn’t reliable.
Both leaders have doubts that the CRTC’s proclamation will have any immediate effect. “It is one thing for CRTC to say it is an essential service, it is another thing for the feds to come up with billions of dollars,” says Marriott. He estimates it will take billions just to provide stable service in Ontario and he’s not sure if the federal government is willing to fork out the money. “If they’re not willing to give the dollar for health care (to the provinces), are they willing to give the dollars for high speed Internet?”
Broad agrees saying the declaration by the CRTC is nice “and maybe it will bring something in the future, but right now it doesn’t mean much.”
Broad hopes when the federal government decides to act and provide better service to rural areas, it will address what he sees as the biggest problem – reliability. “Before the government gives out any money, the government has to have a service guarantee for reliability…they have to guarantee that there will be a certain level fo service at a certain costs.”
Broad acknowledges that might not be the same in his community as Toronto until the SWIFT fibre network project is complete. “I’m not expecting too much in the short term.”