Why should Ontario’s communities have to go it alone?

A special article in today’s digital edition of The Globe and Mail highlights the impact of making high-speed internet available and accessible in rural communities, noting the benefits experienced in Olds, Alberta in the context of Scugog Township’s recently receiving a $1.9-million Connecting Canadians grant to help provide areas of the township that have slow, unreliable Internet with upgraded service.

Journalist Tracy Hanes highlights Scugog’s vision to become a “gigabit smart” community, following the path blazed by the small town of Olds, Alta., population 8,500, where every home and business is connected to a fibre-optic network. In Scugog, Connect Freely will install a fibre-optic network starting with 820 homes on Scugog Island. The municipality will supply a loan to match the government grant and enter into a partnership with Connect Freely owner Tim St. Pierre to operate the company as a public utility.

This is great news for Scugog. However, it was striking to note comments by Lance Douglas, former chief executive officer of O-NET in Olds, the only community-owned gigabit network and service provider in Canada, and current CEO of Lightcore Group, a private telecommunications company that specializes in gigabit communities – Mr. Douglas noted the difficulties of getting gigabit service in small municipalities, especially when the large service providers (like Bell and Rogers) are not directing their investments to small, rural, or remote communities or there is little perceived incentive for private industry to upgrade their networks. The result is that some municipalities are going it alone in order to ensure access to vital broadband infrastructure.

“So municipalities are left with an option: Ignore the lack of new investment, or to take matters into their own hands…” – Lance Douglas, Globe and Mail, October 14, 2015

But why should Ontario’s municipalities have to go it alone when it comes to investing in critical infrastructure? We believe that high-speed internet connectivity has become just as important to our region’s prosperity as good roads, safe water and reliable electricity. We also believe that the size of your community should not limit your access to fibre-optic service. Regardless of the size of your community, your age, education, or where you work, you deserve access to high-speed broadband. That’s why SWIFT is leading the way to build an ultra high-speed fibre optic regional broadband network for everyone in Western Ontario.

Rather than leaving individual municipalities to negotiate the complicated waters of internet service alone, SWIFT will make fibre optic connectivity accessible to 3.5 million people across 41,286 km2, connecting communities with population densities as low as 4 people per square kilometer.

If you believe, like us, that broadband is the kind of critical infrastructure that must be planned holistically in order to benefit every citizen, farm, business, and organization in Western Ontario, make sure you contact candidates running in your riding and discuss their support for SWIFT – and ask for their commitment to move this important project forward after the October 19th federal election.