This week’s guest commentary comes from Brent Royce, Board Member, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
It’s hard to imagine doing anything today without the internet. Yet two out of three Ontario farmers surveyed have unreliable internet connection, according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) members.
OFA recently conducted the survey to fuel the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Review of Basic Telecommunications Services for all Canadians. Survey results will also support OFA’s work on the need for affordable broadband internet connection across rural Ontario.
As one survey participant put it, “the internet is just as important to rural families and businesses as it is to urban ones.” And we know from the survey, the vast majority of Ontario farm businesses depend on accessing the internet as part of their daily business. Some of the biggest uses are market and weather information, research, e-learning and participating in a global, digital economy.
The survey focused primarily on accessibility and affordability of rural internet connections. Results showed 94% of respondents believed access to the internet is important to their farm operations, and the majority of those indicated their business would suffer without reliable internet access. More than 50% of respondents believed better internet access would boost their bottom line by opening opportunities for domestic and international markets, and keeping pace with new innovations, technology and overall competitiveness.
To deliver more affordable rural internet, we need the infrastructure to deliver high-speed, broadband at a similar price point to services offered to urban areas. When it comes to the price tag for being connected, more than half of the survey respondents believe there aren’t enough internet service providers available in their area. The concern is that a small number of service providers result in limited options, less competition and likely leads to higher rates.
In today’s e-commerce world, the internet is an essential service. The OFA is advocating for comprehensive, accessible and affordable broadband internet across the entire province. Ontario’s agricultural industry and rural communities must be plugged in with the same level of connection as the urban areas of the province. That’s how we’ll continue to stay competitive, fuel the economy and meet the Premier’s Agri-Food Growth Challenge to double the growth rate and add 120,000 new jobs by 2020.