Internet access is an essential service for Canadians. Yet, broadband is often limited or costly in rural parts of Ontario. This puts communities at a disadvantage as resources and services are less accessible.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the digital divide for rural residents even clearer. Access to online shopping, school, healthcare and other services is limited. Working or managing businesses from home is also challenging without a secure connection. Economic recovery plans need to include broadband investment for both immediate stimulus and long-term sustainability of rural economies and populations.

Action Taken

Federal

The Federal government has several programs to improve high speed Internet access for rural Canadians. The “Connect to Innovate” and “Connecting Canadians” programs have brought high-speed internet to households to increase participation in the digital economy. Federal funds have provided financial support to broadband and wireless infrastructure. The Universal Broadband Fund is currently in development to provide $1 billion over 10 years to support broadband projects across the country.

Provincial

In 2019, the Province implemented the Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. This Plan supports broadband investments in areas with less internet access. Over the next five years, Ontario will spend a targeted amount of $315 million to expand availability.

Between 2010 and 2015 the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) aimed to improve rural internet connection. During this time, EORN built a network to improve broadband access in Eastern Ontario. EORN is currently undergoing a study to assess where connectivity is lacking. A Request for Proposal is underway to begin the Cell Gap Project, which closes August 2020. This project will address voice call and mobile broadband gaps in Eastern Ontario. Construction will begin next year to be completed by 2025. Next, EORN will work on improving download and upload speeds to 95% of the homes and businesses in the region. These projects rely on funding from both federal and provincial governments.

Local

MM2020 is a group of local volunteers who have been working to expand broadband access to
all areas of Mississippi Mills by 2020. The group’s advocacy has helped improve connectivity to
many homes in the community. In 2017, Council provided support to MM2020 to help achieve
this goal. From these efforts, Storm Internet spearheaded a pilot project within Mississippi Mills.
Mississippi Mills Council, Lanark County, and Valley Heartland have advocated for improved
broadband in our area with the Federal Minister of Rural Economic Development, MP Scott Reid
and MPP Randy Hillier.

There have been great achievements in access to rural broadband across Ontario. But, there is
still work to do to make sure all residents of Mississippi Mills have reliable internet access.

Next Steps

On June 16th, Council discussed the importance of rural connectivity. As we respond to the
COVID-19 pandemic, addressing broadband gaps is even more urgent. Funding infrastructure will
help kick-start the economy, as working from home and e-commerce becomes the norm.
Mississippi Mills supports the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in calling on the federal
government to support broadband initiatives. The resolution is being sent to federal and
provincial leaders. Broadband investment needs to be a priority in economic recovery efforts.

Along with other municipalities in Lanark and Renfrew Counties, we have requested a delegation
to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in August. We will meet with
key Provincial Ministers to advocate on the importance of this issue. We have also spoken to
private firms to understand the level of service that they can deliver and costs. We are
advocating on this issue with our neighbouring municipalities.

Council will continue to explore new opportunities to expand broadband access in Mississippi
Mills.

What You Can Do

Contact MP Scott Reid or MPP Randy Hillier to support Council’s request for federal and
provincial investment in broadband access in our community. Residents can also contact Steve
Clark, the Provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Laurie Scott, the Minister of
Infrastructure, and John Yakabuski, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. These
Ministers will join in the discussion of rural broadband at the AMO conference.

Bell has accelerated their Fibre network to reach more homes. You can check your availability
here: https://www.bell.ca/Bell_Internet/Products/Fibre-to-the-home 
Other internet service providers such as Storm, Cogeco and Xplornet have applied for funding to
expand service in our area. Keep an eye out for these developments.
Residents can also conduct an internet speed test to see how your connection performs:
https://performance.cira.ca/