Rural Ontarians want the government to take their connectivity needs seriously

According to CBC, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is pushing Ottawa “for a hefty investment in broadband expansion for rural and remote parts of the province.” In fact, for the 2019 federal budget, the OFA is asking “the feds to commit to rural Internet expansion to the tune of $100 million per year.

That sounds like a lot, right? But the OFA argues it is necessary. Neil Currie, general manager of the OFA, compared the situation to the electrification of rural Ontario, all the way back in the 1930s. Currie told CBC that the electrification process was “an essential service in the 1930s, just as broadband is essential now, and actually quite long overdue… We should’ve been doing this in the 90s.” Currie points out Southwestern Ontario as a particular part of the province that has been neglected in the past, and could benefit from this investment.

This isn’t the first time this issue has come up in Ottawa. As CBC explains, “in 2016, the federal government committed to $500 million in funding to bring broadband Internet access to 300 rural and remote communities by 2021.”

Despite the low customer density for broadband services that makes the service quite expensive, Currie believes that federal investment will ultimately benefit all Canadians. As CBC explains, “Experts say Canada has an opportunity to become a leading player in the world’s agri-food industry, but that investment is needed to make that happen.” One of these investments is equipping farmers with the tools to make their life easier, such as high-speed, reliable internet connectivity to stay up-to-date with the latest market trends, among other things.

Doug Knox, VP of Guelph-based agri-tech accelerator Bioenterprise, told CBC that one way farmers can benefit from reliable broadband is through the growth of “precision” agriculture. Farmers apparently “can now use sensors to extract information about everything from soil content to the growth stage of their crops, which helps to make data-driven decisions about fertilizing and planting.” But with poor connection, the process of collecting and downloading data is long and tedious. Knox believes many farmers choose not to implement better technologies because of the “severe” time lag.

“The yield may be lower because of not being able to understand what’s happening with the crop that’s growing, and so the impact is huge for the farmer,” Knox told CBC.

In order for Canada to feed not only its own population, but the growing world population, broadband is looking incredibly important. It is up to the federal government to decide if they deem the investment is worth it.

Source: cbc.ca – ‘Long overdue’: Ontario farmers say lack of reliable broadband Internet is hurting their business
Published: September 05, 2018