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APAS task force examines rural connectivity

APAS task force examines rural connectivity

Sask. residents can complete a survey to help the task force gather data

Staff Writer

How is your Internet and cellphone service in rural Saskatchewan? Representatives of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) want to know.

Recently, APAS reps launched the Rural Connectivity Task Force to examine what issues and opportunities exist for Internet and cellphone service in the province, said Jeremy Welter. He is the chair of the task force, an APAS board member and a farmer in the Kerrobert, Sask. area.

“Rural residents of the province deal with a consistent lack of access to services when it comes to connectivity – both cellphone and Internet services,” he told

From May 2019 to January 2020, APAS staff conducted a survey. Through it, the group found people in rural Saskatchewan did not have good connectivity and were unhappy with their levels of service. In total, 75 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with their Internet service and 63 per cent were dissatisfied with their cellphone service, APAS reported in its “Out of Range” report in June.

“We identified the issue. Then, we decided the best way to go about (addressing the problem) was to form this task force, gather more information and more data and come up with some policy considerations and recommendations for stakeholders,” said Welter.

The task force will meet with industry experts, services providers, members of the public and academics to learn more information and look for solutions. This process will conclude in January.

The task force also encourages Saskatchewan residents to complete an online survey to help the group gather data.

“Our goal is to (develop) a better handle on the information,” said Welter. Residents “can access the survey and they have the option of testing their Internet speed. When they test their speed, they have the option of sharing that data with us so we have more concrete information, as far as what typical speeds people in rural communities are getting and what we need to see as far as improved services. People can also sign up for task force updates.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are working from home and this situation has further showed the issues with rural connectivity, said Welter.

“It's highlighted the divide between rural and urban places,” he said. “It's really highlighted a lack of infrastructure and a lack of access to connectivity.”

Rural Saskatchewan residents feel left behind and want a change, said Welter.

“Connectivity, whether it's through cellphone or Internet, is a basic service. It's a necessity – no different than power, water or heat,” he said.

The task force expects to release its preliminary findings in December, with a final report to follow in early 2021.

baranozdemir/E+ photo

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