I frequently travel to “friendly Manitoba” for business. Manitoba is the proud home of the Winnipeg Jets (after a brief hiatus), a brand new Human Rights Museum, and some of the most productive farmland in Canada. Some of my best friends and business clients proudly call Manitoba home. Manitobans carry a provincial pride that rivals any other province, based on my experience.
In many provinces the rural/urban divide is divisive and provides the opportunity for conflict. The imbalance of resource allocation from corporate Canada and government can be the cause of much of the conflict. Manitoba is a perfect example of the issues that arise from having two major cities (Winnipeg and Brandon) and a rather sparse population throughout the countryside.
What is happening in Manitoba to rural residents has to be fixed — I’m talking about the cell-phone-signal-bubble that sits over Winnipeg, and is a bone of contention for the agricultural industry. For many of us that visit Manitoba and travel outside the Winnipeg perimeter we know we will have zero cell phone coverage (some carriers are worse than others). I am a Telus customer (not a small provider) and once I leave the perimeter I get zero signal no matter if I am in Morris, Morden or Portage.
For much of the rest of the Prairies, we’ve come to expect a broadband world. In Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta, many rural areas are starting to even receive access to LTE. In Manitoba some people are lucky to be able to make phone call, never mind surf the internet or use an app. Many urban areas are already focused on the release of a super speed 5G network in the future, but you can’t even send a text if you’re an hour from the city?
The disadvantages that this brings to rural Manitoba is more than not being able to post a picture to Facebook but more about industry’s ability to do business in rural Manitoba (and this isn’t even starting to tackle the issue of high speed home and office connections — a short-coming of rural Ontario, too, not just in Western Canada).
The current situation is not acceptable in 2014. Not only does the lack of mobile broadband disadvantage industry but also the farmers that want to be able to have the communication advantages that their farming peers enjoy in the rest of Canada. Change needs to happen before Manitoba farmers are left further in the communication dust.