Garth Frizzell is a councillor for the City of Prince George and second vice president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. (Submitted)

COLUMN: National internet access plan needed in next federal budget

Garth Frizzell is a Councillor for the City of Prince George and Second Vice President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Imagine running a small business and not being able to sell your products online. Or being a nurse who can’t access electronic patient records. That’s the daily reality for many Canadians living in rural, remote and northern communities where poor broadband and cellular connectivity are the norm.

Right now in Prince George, the largest city in northern B.C., there are residents living within city limits without access to broadband. In our immediate region, there are vast areas with no access to high-speed internet, and critical highways networks that don’t have cellular coverage.

READ MORE: Faster internet coming to rural areas in northern B.C.

As a city promoting the natural benefits we have to attract data centres, it is critical to have reliable broadband access. Today’s competitive businesses, and our future economy, must keep pace with technology.

On a recent trip to Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut, I stayed in the Frobisher Inn, a large hotel overlooking the city. While we had access to Wi-Fi, a sign on the bed urged us to not use it unless it was essential. I learned the entire territory has access to about as much bandwidth as a teenager in Toronto uses every night.

And unfortunately, for two million Canadians, fast and reliable broadband or wireless connections remain out of reach. With numbers like that, it’s clear this is a national concern, and it must be fixed.

We know we can fix this, and progress has been made in the past. Federal investments like the $500-million federal Connect to Innovate program and the CRTC’s $750-million Broadband Fund are good first steps in bringing service to hard-to-reach areas. But the job is far from done.

READ MORE: B.C. MP pushes feds to fund rural internet infrastructure

On behalf of communities from coast to coast to coast, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is advocating a plan that has received industry-wide nods of approval. And FCM is looking to this year’s federal budget, set for release March 19, to detail a clear path to achieving truly universal broadband and mobile access in Canada.

What does that plan look like?

FCM believes the budget must include a national broadband strategy with clear service standards and timelines. And that strategy needs to be backed up with support – an investment of at least $400 million per year for 10 years.

High-speed connectivity supports everything from public safety and modern education to the conditions businesses need to innovate and grow. This is about enabling all Canadians to benefit from becoming active participants in digital life –improving the overall well being of our country.

It’s 2019. In a country as vast and diverse as ours, broadband isn’t just a “nice to have” – it’s a necessity. This upcoming federal budget is the time and place to welcome all Canadians into the digital age and ensure they have access to fast and reliable internet – no matter where they live.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Sailings filling up on Northern Sea Wolf

There is a strong demand for the service

New ownership group presents Mount Timothy Resort plans

‘More activity and more people on the hill means more fun’

Thunderstorms in forecast for much of Cariboo Chilcotin

Special weather statements, concerns of flash flooding, for southern B.C. regions

Two Nuxalk artists awarded YVR Art Foundation scholarships

Several Nuxalk artists have won the award, some more than once

Convicted animal abuser to return to B.C. court May 21

Catherine Jessica Adams is facing a breach of probation charge

B.C.’s fight to regulate bitumen through pipelines to go to Canada’s top court

BC Appeal Court judges found B.C. cannot restrict bitumen flow along Trans Mountain pipeline

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Most Read