Businesses in Sarnia Lambton are being negatively impacted by the lack of a Federal Government strategy around broadband improvements, says the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

That message comes in the wake of an Auditor General of Canada report that asserts the Government of Canada has not effectively monitored and created a long-term strategy to address broadband internet gaps for businesses and Canadians in rural and remote areas.

“It is critical that the Government address their plan to support rural communities so that we’re not disconnected from the global economy and rest of Canada,” said Shirley de Silva, the Chamber’s president and CEO. “Affordable high-speed broadband is holding back farmers, manufacturers, innovators and educators in our area.”

The CRTC, in its Telecommunications and Monitoring Report, 2017, estimates that only 39% of rural businesses and communities had access to high speed (50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload), while 13% were lacking access to minimum download speeds over 5 Mbps.

While recent initiatives like the $500 million investment into the “Connect to Innovate” program have created partnerships and outcomes, the Auditor General concluded that the CRTC did not ultimately implement the program criteria in a way that ensured the maximum expansion in rural and remote communities.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is working with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce network to advocate for several recommendations that will address connectivity through a strategy that supports private internet service providers, supplement infrastructure gaps and encourage new technologies like 5G mobile networks.

The Chamber has also called on the Provincial Government to develop a provincial long-term broadband strategy that includes funding for connectivity to the most rural and remote areas where it is currently cost-prohibitive while setting speed and reliability standards.

Recommendations of the Canadian Chamber network: 

1)    Develop a long-term strategy that identifies required resources and timelines for high-speed internet access in all underserviced communities in Canada, focusing on the deployment of wired broadband in consideration with other promising technologies.

2)    Accelerate the deployment of 5G technology by removing barriers to 3.5GHz spectrum allocation and access to 5G compatible devices by incenting users to upgrade legacy mobile and IoT devices; i.e. through an initiative similar to the Energy Star Program.

3)    Ensure that any strategies should rely on market forces to the maximum extent possible, and that government should provide subsidies and investments only when market forces alone are unlikely to achieve economic and social objectives.