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Ontario asks for help expanding internet access to rural communities
Published Tuesday, June 2, 2020 7:16AM EDT
KITCHENER -- The province is calling on Ottawa for funds to help expand broadband access in rural and northern communities in Ontario, where access to the internet can be limited.
This is especially challenging during a pandemic, with most people working and studying from home.
“All the in person meetings are either by teleconference or video conference these days,” says Andy Lennox, mayor of Wellington North Township.
This includes in Wellington North Township, where the internet can often be undependable.
“It’s slower, sometimes it’s intermittent. Reliability is an issue,” explains Lennox.
Mark Townsend owns the Silver Fox Distillery in Arthur and says that running a business with poor internet connection is challenging and makes working from home even more difficult.
“When I’m talking or watching other people through this connection and you’re getting the stop video feed and everything pausing, it really becomes very frustrating. You can’t even get your point across,” he explains.
On Sunday, the province wrote a letter to the federal government asking for immediate and urgent support to expand broadband access.
Saying in part, "while most residents in Ontario have access to the internet, the speed, quality, and cost vary significantly across the province. There are coverage gaps in rural and northern communities, as well as some urban areas."
The letter also says lack of reliable internet access in rural communities can create gaps in education.
“That equity of access for families who don’t have access to internet is significantly compromised. If you’re not able to get onto the internet then how are you accessing your learn at home profiles,” says Jane Morris, superintendent of education for the Avon Maitland District School Board.
The unreliable connection has also been frustrating for Mayor Andy Lennox and his kids as they make the shift to online learning.
“They can’t even engage in the teacher led video learning because we just don’t have the capability to do that,” he says.
Lennox says he supports the province's request for half a billion dollars to expand internet access saying that good internet is essential
“Let’s get this issue resolved so that people in rural communities have the same opportunities both economic, social, and cultural that those of our urban counterparts have,” he says.
The province is asking Ottawa to help bring nearly 3,000 Ontario schools, including 99 in Northern Ontario, online and up to speed.