Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Pat Jilesen, OFA Director
Broadband internet access is a fundamental necessity for conducting business today, no matter where you are located. The recent Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruling couldn’t have come at a better time for Ontario farmers, rural residents and business owners.
In December 2016, the CRTC ruled that broadband access internet service is now considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians. The evidence used by the CRTC included the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s (OFA) 2015 survey of members on internet requirements.
OFA has been saying rural Ontario needs reliable high speed internet for years, advocating for equal access to broadband for Ontario’s rural communities and are pleased with the announcement.
The CRTC ruling also included a solution to extend broadband access across the country. The commission announced a new funding program of up to $750 million over five years on top of existing government programs to extend services to rural and remote areas across Canada.
These new funds will go a long way to bring Ontario rural residents, farms and businesses the basic telecommunications services necessary to be a part of today’s digital economy.
The CRTC also set a minimum standard, ruling that broadband internet with download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 10 Mbps will now be considered a “basic telecom service.”
Here in Ontario, the provincial and federal governments have already committed $180 million to fund the SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) program, expanding high speed internet across rural Ontario. The SWIFT program was a start, and the CRTC’s new funding program will secure the extension of broadband across the province.
Healthy, thriving communities – rural and urban – rely on broadband access for economic development, communication and knowledge sharing, searching for employment, access to resources, health information and so much more. In its report, the CRTC stated 82 per cent of Canadians already have access to high download and upload speeds, but they aren’t common in rural and northern areas.
The new ruling on access and minimum high speed standards will deliver a vital service to Ontario communities, residents, businesses and farmers.
Access to high speed internet and the implementation of expansion across Ontario and Canada requires infrastructure development. It will take time before everyone is able to benefit from the CRTC’s new ruling.
We know our members have been patient and are now eager to see this new program roll out. OFA will continue to work with the government to formalize this plan and see Ontario farmer’s access the necessary high speed broadband we need.