Agriculutre This Week - Federal Internet initiative a solid effort

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may not be very popular on the Prairies but he and his party do seem to at least understand the importance of timely and speedy access to information these days.

To better ensure rural Canadians have access to high speed Internet service on par with those in large urban centres the federal government announced recently a new injection of money focused on better connectivity.

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On Nov. 9, the feds added $750 million to its Universal Broadband Fund to speed up Canadians’ access to high-speed internet.

The 2019 federal budget had previously allocated $1 billion to the fund.

“Our government is launching the $1.75 billion universal broadband fund to connect all Canadians to high speed internet,” said Trudeau at a press conference in Ottawa to announce the new money.

“This fund will be used to build infrastructure across the country, almost entirely in rural and remote communities. And for places that are just too far to reach, including in remote areas in the north, we’ve reached a $600 million agreement with Telesat for satellite capacity to improve broadband, along with the $2 billion we’ve already put down for broadband through the Canada infrastructure bank’s growth plan. We’re making real investments in Canadians, their success, and in their future.”

Trudeau continued, “Today’s investment puts us on track to get 98 per cent of Canadians connected to high speed internet in the next few years, and everyone connected, a few years after that. These are ambitious targets, and we’re ready to meet them. In fact, to accelerate our progress, right now, these need to succeed.”

You can argue politics if you want too, but it is rather difficult to see this as anything but positive for rural Canada.

Certainly the COVID-19 pandemic has focused added attention on Internet access as many workers have been sent home to work in a place of greater isolation and safety, and education classes have gone online for the same reason, but the need to be connected with quick access had been growing long before we had heard of COVID.

To be competitive today business needs to have at least one eye on global trends and that requires information, whether it’s a small town hairdresser looking for the latest styles and hair products, a mechanic researching an engine light issue, or a farmer looking for signs to suggest the best time to sell their canola, you need information, you need it fast, and that means access to high speed Internet.

As any federal government program, this one will not solve access issues for all, the country is simply too large and diverse for that, but the injection of funds to build a better rural high speed base is at least an investment that bodes well for a rural future in an information dominated future.

Calvin Daniels is Editor with Yorkton This Week.

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