Equal access for all – to high speed Internet

Those of us in the city take access to high speed internet not only for granted…but almost as a right in some cases! I certainly couldn’t imagine my life without it, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

But not everyone is as lucky. Many folks across Ontario wish they could join the modern world and have high speed internet at their fingertips as well, but sadly, they just can’t. Not because they can’t afford or because they don’t know how, but because the infrastructure is simply lacking.

Jim Maw, a cash crop farmer from the Brigden area near Sarnia, is a passionate advocate for high speed internet access in rural areas. He believes it is crucial for the viability of rural communities and for a healthy, competitive farming sector.

In a conversation recently, he told me that it is very important – or even more important – for farmers to have the same high speed internet access as people in the city. He explained that they need to be able to access information when it comes to selling their products but also to ensure safety and quality of the food they produce. There’s so much great information available on the Internet, he added but that it’s only of use if they are able to get at it.

To solve the problem, Jim supports the building of more towers and other infrastructure so that high speed accessibility can be brought to larger rural areas. Currently, pockets of rural Ontario have high speed service, but it is sporadic.

I must admit that, before meeting Jim at a farmer training seminar a few weeks ago, I never gave this issue much thought beyond the minor annoyance I feel when I try to use the much slower wireless or even dial up internet connections at my parents’ farm. But Jim makes some very good points, ones that bear thinking about in the greater context of rural economic development and farm sustainability in Ontario.

I, for one, would move back to a small town or into the country in a second – but with a home office and an Internet-based retail business that couldn’t operate without high speed internet access, it takes many areas off our list before our search even seriously gets underway.

The Ontario government has announced funding to upgrade rural internet infrastructure, so maybe there is hope on the horizon?

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