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Assessing broadband in rural Ont.

Assessing broadband in rural Ont.

North Grenville residents are asked to complete an online survey

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A municipal council in eastern Ontario is asking its residents to complete an online questionnaire about rural broadband connectivity.

North Grenville Mayor Nancy Peckford and her fellow councillors want constituents to complete the Rural Broadband Survey to help identify potential areas of improvement and to share their broadband experiences.

The survey is 12-questions long. The questions include how much a household or business spends monthly for Internet service and how many devices are used to access the web.

Council will be accepting responses throughout the fall and residents can complete the survey more than once.

“We want to better understand what using broadband in rural parts of our municipality looks like,” Peckford told Farms.com. “We need better data so we can leverage that information for the purposes of urgent upgrades. We know where the trouble spots are, but we need more definition of how bad some of the gaps are.”

Currently, about half of North Grenville residents and businesses don’t have access to the standards set out by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Peckford said.

In 2016, the CRTC declared broadband Internet a basic service and mandated that service providers offer customers in all parts of Canada download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second, upload speeds of at least 10 megabits per second and options for unlimited data usage.

At the time, the CRTC also estimated about 18 per cent of Canadians didn’t have access to those speeds. Its target is for every household in Canada to have that access by 2026.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of reliable broadband.

Parents and students working from home, farmers transferring data, and businesses trying to conduct daily activities are among those who need fast Internet now, Peckford said.

“It’s one of the top concerns we hear about depending on the day and from people of all walks of life,” she said. “It’s a very urgent issue for the municipality and parts of Ontario generally.”

Peckford likens the need for broadband in rural areas to an issue facing some urban communities.

Investing in reliable Internet isn’t so different than investing in public transit, she said.

“I think governments have to treat the challenges of rural broadband the same way they do public transit,” she said. “Both issues are about connectivity. In urban centres, people can take a bus or another form of public transit to school or an appointment. In rural areas, public transit isn’t practical, so we need the Internet access to stay connected.”

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