By Parry-Sound Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison
No issue, beyond COVID, has frustrated me more as a federal Member of Parliament than that of rural broadband internet.
And I am not alone. Every day I get calls and letters from constituents who are having issues either accessing, or affording, realizable internet service.
The importance of internet access cannot be understated. It is critical for modern communication, business, and public safety. Now with COVID, we have had the additional challenges of online learning, and an economy where many businesses have had to move online to survive.
Yet we still have too many parts of our riding with dead cell service, where if you have a motor vehicle accident in the middle of the night you can’t even phone for help.
We clearly need more telecommunications competition.
Yet we have a CRTC that favours the big monopolies, and a Liberal government that protects the big monopolies when the CRTC doesn’t.
We keep hearing government promises about big initiatives to build out broadband, but nothing ever seems to change.
For my part, as your MP I have raised these issues many times in the House of Commons. I have been critical of both levels of government for not addressing this issue head on, and our caucus has even put out a roadmap of solutions.
There is good news however.
Last week the Ontario government unveiled a plan to bring high-speed internet to all communities across the province.
Ontario announced in March it’s spending nearly $4 billion to connect every region to high-speed internet by the end of 2025.
This is the largest single investment in high-speed internet, in any province, by any government in Canadian history.
It also includes working with the federal government to ensure everyone is connected across the province. What’s different about this plan is the province is using innovative procurement practices so the various internet providers can bid on contracts and get their projects up and running. This will improve competition and get the network built faster.
Infrastructure Ontario will lead the procurement process that will begin this summer. This transparent and competitive process will enable Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to bid for provincial support through a series of reverse auction events for defined geographic areas, and based on requirements for high-speed internet infrastructure deployment.
So this is great news. A fully connected Ontario by 2025. A welcome slice of positivity as we look to rebuilding our communities and businesses post-COVID.
As our federal representative, I’ll certainly be doing my part to hold the province to its commitments here in Parry Sound-Muskoka.
(Photo of Parliament Hill by festivio on Pixabay. Photo of Scott Aitchison courtesy of Scott Aitchison.)
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