Is access to rural Internet headed in the wrong direction?

Access to rural broadband Internet is a crucial part of running a successful farm and farm business. Whether it’s access to information, ability to use technology, or running a business from a rural area, Internet speed, access, and cost is becoming increasingly important for Canada’s rural areas.

As the importance of rural Internet service rises, you’d think that speeds and accessibility would rise as well, right? Unfortunately, it may not be as cut and dried as that.

Rita Trichur, editor with the Globe and Mail, recently wrote an opinion article based on the topic, where she argues that telecommunications companies aren’t actually doing enough to increase service and that we are in fact, going the opposite direction. Trichur joined RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney to discuss the latest move by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), and what that means for rural areas.

“Last month, the CRTC, the federal telecoms regulator, put out a decision saying they were going to cut the rates that the big telecom and cable companies could charge new players for leasing the space on their internet network. Now what these smaller players do is they lease the space, they pay a fee, and then they re-sell to consumers at a lower price,” Trichur explains. “And it’s this idea that we are going to create competition for Internet services with these newer players because it costs too much quite frankly when you have a big country like Canada with such a small population to expect newer entrants in the market to build networks from scratch. ”

Following the CRTC’s decision, a number of companies led by Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) announced they would be reviewing their network expansion plans and their capital investments for internet expansion going forward, due to the retroactive payments that will have to be made to the smaller players.

So what does this mean for rural service? According to Trichur, BCE was very forward about how this was going to affect rural expansion. While some of the other companies weren’t quite as up-front about it, Trichur says it’s undeniable that it will be a big move for rural expansion — in the wrong direction.

“Considering most of Canada is rural and remote, and most people in urban centres have access to the Internet, it’s not too difficult to figure out what they are talking about.”

She adds that Liberal minister Navdeep Bains has expressed his disappointment with the reaction of the telecom companies after the CRTC’s decision, saying that “they are holding rural Canadian’s hostage.”

Check out the conversation between Rita Trichur and Shaun Haney, below:

 

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