“We have areas where we have pretty decent broadband and then we have areas where there is absolutely no broadband,” said Debbie Robinson, Renfrew County Director and Chair of the Eastern Directors Caucus. Ontario, in response to the budget released Wednesday. “There are a lot of haves and have-nots. ”
The caucus stands up for rural eastern Ontario, and Robinson says better broadband access is its top priority.
With the latest announcement, Ontario’s planned overall broadband investment will grow to almost $ 4 billion over six years.
According to the province, as many as 700,000 households and businesses in Ontario do not have access to adequate broadband speeds or have no access to them at all.
Previously, the caucus requested $ 200 million in funding from the provincial and federal governments, as well as $ 200 million from the Canada Infrastructure Bank, to improve access.
Robinson said she was tired of seeing students sitting in their parents’ car trying to do their homework, trying to access better internet outside public buildings.
“It’s ridiculous at this age, you know? It shouldn’t happen. ”
Coral Sproule, who lives on a farm about 10 minutes from Perth, Ontario, has restarted his farming business and is working with a local food initiative and the National Farmers Union. Her two young boys are also learning at home due to the pandemic, so internet access may be reduced at best.
“Once you have a person at home for a meeting or something, it really limits the speed,” she said.
“It’s disruptive at best. ”
With Lanark County having recently seen a spike in COVID-19 cases and moving to the more restrictive orange red zone, Sproule is keeping her two young boys at home after school, further limiting their access to Internet.
“It’s great to hear more funding and support coming in this direction,” she said.
“I think any help for infrastructure development is an improvement. ”
Plus, it’s an investment that should help vulnerable people living in rural communities, including anyone at risk of domestic violence, Sproule said.
Broadband access is a necessity in 2021, not a luxury, said Robinson, who called the province’s announced investment “very exciting.”
She said limited high-speed Internet access is a major barrier preventing Eastern Ontario from welcoming people looking to leave the city.
“We also need to provide them with the opportunity and the ability to work from home, learn from home and just enjoy life in rural Ontario. ”