QUINTE REGION, ON, JULY 21st, 2016: Today, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to commit dedicated provincial infrastructure funds to developing and expanding broadband internet access in remote and rural areas of the province. With record investments being made by government in transit and transportation infrastructure, the business advocacy organization is calling upon the provincial government to recognize, through infrastructure dollars, that access to high speed internet is also essential for Ontario businesses to compete in the 21st century global economy.
“Local businesses in the Bay of Quinte Region are becoming increasingly dependent on internet access for their everyday business practices,” said Suzanne Andrews, General Manager at the Quinte West Chamber of Commerce. This has long been an issue in the Quinte Region and earlier this year the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) pressed Canada’s telecomm regulator to better recognize the critical need for high-speed internet access in rural communities at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s public hearings. “High-speed internet access has become a necessity for doing business in today’s economy and it is critical that all regions across Ontario have access to this essential infrastructure, said Belleville Chamber CEO Bill Saunders.”
While the Quinte West and Belleville Chambers along with the OCC acknowledge broadband investments made by the Government of Canada in the recent federal budget, internet access continues to be an issue in parts of Ontario. The letter to the Premier identifies three key recommendations that the Ontario government should address in the coming term to ensure all communities in the province are able to compete in the global economy:
- Develop a robust broadband investment strategy that acknowledges that broadband is an essential infrastructure investment, and creates space for continued private-sector investment.
- Build partnerships across all levels of government in order to leverage funding and respond to local need. Recognizing that the private sector has driven investment in broadband infrastructure, the OCC recommends an intergovernmental funds matching formula that will continue to incentivize large private sector investments.
- Benchmark Ontario’s internet speeds and access. In order to ensure Ontario is able to compete in a technology-driven global economy, we need to create broadband infrastructure that is equal with those of other globally-competitive jurisdictions.
“Just as businesses depend on roads and electricity, high-speed Internet is fundamental to advancing the province’s economic interests,” said Allan O’Dette, CEO & President of the OCC. “Committing funds to broadband infrastructure in rural and remote regions of the province will ensure that economic fragmentation is reduced in Ontario.”
With government services increasingly shifting to online platforms, universal access to high speed internet is becoming more important than ever. By working with the Bay of Quinte Region and the Ontario business community, government can develop broadband policy that is responsive to existing needs while not dissuading private sector investment.
Suzanne Andrews, General Manager
Quinte West Chamber of Commerce
T: (613) 392-7635
Bill Saunders, CEO
Belleville Chamber of Commerce
T: (613) 962-4597