The province announced improved broadband projects in Wellington, Caledon, Brant and Niagara
By Jackie Clark
674 homes in Wellington County now have improved, reliable access to internet, and construction has begun to connect an additional 283 homes in Eden Mills, the provincial government said in a Jan. 28 statement. Construction has also begun in Caledon, where the government aims to connect 846 houses and workplaces to fast, reliable internet, according to a Jan. 25 release.
In Brant County, the federal and provincial governments signed contracts to deliver improved broadband to 2,465 homes and businesses starting in August 2022, according to a Jan. 26 release. Similarly, the governments signed contracts to connect 5,629 homes and businesses in Niagara Region to reliable internet, with service expected to begin in late 2022, said a Jan. 27 statement.
“We would be very pleased to see it come as quickly as possible,” Sandra Vos, cow-calf operator and past president of the Brant County Federation of Agriculture, told Farms.com. Unreliable broadband makes everyday activities on the farm, such as downloading grain market prices, attending webinars or running a payroll program less efficient. “If that speed isn’t there you have to be prepared to spend more time doing things.”
Some farmers with unreliable internet “run on their data plans on their phones, but if they go over, which is very easy to do, their bills go way up,” she added.
More reliable internet in these regions will help the agricultural community take advantage of new technology, Chris Hamilton, a beekeeper in Niagara and president of the Niagara Federation of Agriculture, told Farms.com.
“The modern world is showing more and more the wide array of opportunities offered by fast and reliable internet,” he said. “Advancing technology in barn and farm monitoring has given the farmer the ability to check a variety of things on their farm at a touch of a button from a computer or smart phone.”
However, without reliable broadband in rural areas, “it is increasingly difficult to take advantage of new technologies,” he explained. “A farm could be a few kilometers outside of a town that has 4G network but still be on a dial up network that is not only slow and unreliable but also ties up the phone line. Farms in these conditions will struggle to produce more and more as time goes by.”
That challenge is exacerbated by COVID-19.
The remote work necessitated by the pandemic “brought to light what we’ve always known,” Vos said. Farmers in Brant County have had trouble staying connected to Zoom meetings or are having to dial in by phone. With students home from school participating in online learning and adults working remotely, maintaining internet connections for all users becomes extremely challenging.
“Online conference calls are great when you have systems in place that work. If your internet connection cannot handle live interactions, then how can a farmer be expected to have successful engagements with industry stakeholders?” Hamilton asked.
“Fast and reliable internet shouldn't be a luxury anymore. It is a necessity in the modern business world,” he added. “By having access to higher internet speeds the agriculture industry in Ontario will successfully meet new challenges and opportunities. Ontario farmers have built a thriving industry and with new technologies it can be vastly improved to meet consumer needs.”
“It would be wonderful to get improved broadband into the rural communities, not just for the ag users but for all the people who live on the backroads and depend on internet for so much,” she said.
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