‘Access to broadband is not a luxury but a necessity’: A call to action for internet expansion in Eastern Ontario

The Editor:

This letter is a call to action for your readers, especially those in Eastern Ontario who have poor or unreliable access to broadband.

Recently, both the governments of Canada and Ontario brought down their budgets. Combined, they dedicated $7 billion for broadband expansion. We applaud both levels of government for taking this step, but there is much more to be done. The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) has been working for several years on a project to bring high speed, reliable and affordable broadband to eastern Ontario.

EORN’s proposed Gig Project, will reach not only the urban centres but also the many rural and remote areas of our region where broadband is limited or nonexistent. EORN is requesting $200 million each from the federal and provincial governments. This represents 5.7 per cent of the total funds the governments of Canada and Ontario have committed to broadband expansion. Given that recent analysis shows rural eastern Ontario accounts for about 30 per cent of all under-served households in Ontario, the project offers tremendous value.

We have not received an answer to our request for funding and time is running out. Our MPs and MPPs need to know that you want broadband improvements that serve your needs not just today but into the future. The Gig Project that delivers up to 1,000 Megabits of speed will do just that. Let us fix the problem once and for all.

Access to broadband is not a luxury but a necessity, as we have all witnessed during this pandemic. Children are expected to learn online, but how does one’s child or children do that when broadband connections are sporadic. Our healthcare system has had to pivot to virtual care. While much of this care is occurring over the phone, the ability of physicians to see patients virtually means more people can receive care without having to leave their homes or take time off work. The Gig Project will make this a reality. It is a comprehensive solution critical to our region’s economic recovery and future growth.

We are writing to ask you to call and email your local MP and MPP and ask them to put their support behind the EORN submission. Contact your municipal councillors and ask them to advocate for the project and join our lobbying efforts. The federal and provincial governments are committed to broadband expansion, now is the time to let them know that residents support a regional approach where no one is left behind. Working together is our strength.

Yours truly,

EORN Chair J. Murray Jones, EOWC Chair Debbie Robinson and EOMC Chair Diane Therrien

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