The Need for Rural Internet Connectivity
Picture your life without the internet. You can’t connect with your friends and family on Facebook or binge your favourite Netflix show. Need to pay a bill? You’d have to go to a bank. Does your child need to research a school project? You’ll have to drive them to the library. File your taxes? Head down to the post office and send it in the mail.
The internet entertains us, informs us, keeps us connected, and makes day-to-day tasks easier. Access to the internet is more vital than ever before, but it’s a luxury that’s not available to millions of Canadians.
In this blog, we’ll look at the digital divide in Canada, the importance of bridging this divide, and the solutions that exist to get all Canadians connected to the internet. Finally, we’ll provide important stats that give a full picture of the need for internet connectivity, particularly in rural and remote communities.
What is the digital divide?
The digital divide is “the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to both their opportunities to access information and communication technologies.”
When we talk about the digital divide, we usually refer to the gap in access between urban and rural areas. However, it’s important to note that a digital divide also exists within urban areas. Though broadband infrastructure exists in urban communities, those living in low-income, racialized, and marginalized communities cannot afford the high prices that large telcos charge.
To make matters worse, the digital divide is much starker when comparing rural and remote communities with urban and suburban communities in Canada. Rural and remote communities often have access to much lower speeds or no access at all due to the complete absence of broadband infrastructure in their communities.
Why is it important to bridge the digital divide?
Individuals and communities that can’t access or afford high-speed internet miss out on essential services and benefits that many Canadians now take for granted. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the pace of digitization, and rural, remote, and low-income communities are falling further behind.
For decades rural populations have dwindled as residents fled to urban areas in search of education, economic opportunity, and a fast-paced lifestyle. As more companies implement work from anywhere models, and real-estate prices in urban areas continue to rise, this trend could reverse.
According to Statistics Canada, more than 64,000 people left Toronto for other parts of Ontario from mid-2020 to mid-2021, up 14% from the previous 12-month period. But only communities that have access to high-speed internet will benefit from an urban exodus – leaving communities without the broadband infrastructure to continue languishing.
What is the solution?
Rural and remote municipalities have tried for decades to work with large telcos to get broadband infrastructure built in their communities but haven’t had much success. For years, large telcos could not see a business case for rural broadband, and any recent interest in providing internet services in rural Canada has proven to be completely self-serving. With large telcos having a monopoly over the market, there is no incentive to offer more competitive pricing to help get low-income communities connected.
New models are emerging that eliminate the need to rely on large telcos, and internet service technology is continuing to evolve and will soon be able to connect even the most remote communities. Our Community Broadband Networks solution puts communities in charge of their own future, and open access models fuel competition in the market.
See the Full Picture
We’ve created an infographic to highlight the need for internet access for all Canadians. Find out the top internet usage trends, get stats on just how wide the digital divide is, and learn more about the innovative technologies that can help bridge the divide once and for all.