New report on internet connectivity shows growing urban and rural divide in Canada

It’s going to take more than faster internet service to improve the current state of telecommunications North of 60.

A new national report called Waiting to Connect examines connectivity and the disparity in internet access between urban, rural and remote communities.

Authored by the non-profit organization Council of Canadian Academies, its findings show Canada has failed at meeting targets for equitable access to reliable high speed and affordable internet.

“Compared to urban areas, broadband connectivity in rural and remote communities is generally less likely to be available, slower, and more expensive,” the report said. “The connectivity gap is a decades-long problem that has not improved despite continued calls from those living with under service.

“For the people living in these communities, low-quality internet limits social, cultural, and economic opportunities and choices.”

A big takeaway from the report – how governments spend taxpayers’ money.

“We didn’t understand how some of the current funding structures don’t address those pieces, they address maintenance of equipment, installation of equipment, and getting fibre into the ground but they don’t necessarily talk to small communities and say what is the support you need to make sure that everyone has the connections,” says Karen Barnes, chair of Expert Panel, Waiting to Connect Report.

The pandemic exposed the issues with connectivity

According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic which shut Canada down in March 2020 exposed the country’s lack of reliable internet service. It cut people off from services that were vital during the health emergency.

“COVID-19 exposed the serious impact of the connectivity gap, cutting many people in rural and remote communities off from essential health, education, business, and professional services as they pivoted online to reduce the spread of the virus,” said Eric Meslin, president of the Council of Canadian Academies.

“Waiting to Connect considers the benefits of high-speed broadband connectivity, the challenges in achieving these benefits, and the barriers that have limited the rollout of broadband in rural and remote regions.”

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