OPINION: Rural residents need fast internet too

If you want to be able to participate in today’s modern economy, you need a reliable and fast connection to the internet.

Yet among those living in rural Canada, only 39 per cent have access to speeds of up to 50 megabits per second for downloading and 10 megabits per second for uploading, reads a report from the auditor general, compared to 96 per cent of those living in urban areas.

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That means around 5.4 million Canadians are being left behind, with many in this region among them.

Just because we live in a rural setting doesn’t mean we don’t need faster speeds like our urban brethren.

Farmers are beginning to collect and use data in a big way, whether it comes from sensor data from a combine or a mapping utility onboard a drone.

Working from home is becoming more of an option, but would require stable internet to maintain things like video links.

With rural crime a concern, much of the systems that warn property owners of an intruder, that record their actions, require an internet connection.

If you want to read us online… well, you get the idea.

Yet what’s interesting about the latest report from the auditor general, released Nov. 20, is that despite calls for the federal government to create a national broadband strategy, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is reluctant to get to work on one without any type of funding.

According to the auditor general, government officials believed in 2016 that to connect everybody in this country with a 50/10 megabits per second internet connection, it would cost $6.5 billion.

In the end, the auditor general’s suggestion is to agree on a minimum standard and then develop a plan from there.

If we don’t want our businesses and youth to leave rural Saskatchewan for the urban oases of faster internet, then is time to find way to get the infrastructure out there, just as our ancestors developed railways and highways.

© Copyright 2018 Humboldt Journal

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