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New hopes for upgrading internet in rural eastern Ontario

“People in the rural areas are even more limited,” said Shannon Ruttle, a librarian from Tweed Public Library. “They are finding it very difficult to get decent connectivity and service.” Photo via http://www.tweedlibrary.ca/

By Maria Toews [1]

BELLEVILLE – Rural communities within Hastings-Lennox and Addington have had poor quality internet for many years now but things might start improving in the near future.

The Ontario government has recently released a plan under their Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program [2] to ensure high-speed internet is available across the province by 2025. 

“I’m hoping that things will speed up a bit knowing the need there is for it now,” said Tammie Adams, the CEO of Madoc Public Library. “But again, I know these things take time and I know all of our (political) party leaders have mentioned increasing internet access so I’m hopeful.

In light of Ontario’s new plan, Rick Phillips, the warden of Hastings County and a director for the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) [3], hopes this initiative will not overlook Hastings County.

“My concern is the rural areas, the back roads of the county and the northern part of the county and the southern part of the county that may get left behind again. We’re hoping that the Ontario and federal governments won’t let that happen,” he said.

EORN is an organization that was established in 2010 with a mission to offer better internet across all of Eastern Ontario by providing higher internet speeds and bandwidth. By 2015 they completed a 172 million dollar network with the help of the municipal, provincial and federal government. 

“The residents want high-speed internet – they want good high-speed internet – so that they can conduct their business at home; they can go to school online; they can do whatever it is they have to do not just now but in the future,” said Phillips.

“I am optimistic that they will cover everyone in Ontario, particularly in Hastings county and our rural areas, but we will wait and see,” said Rick Phillips. Photo via https://hastingscounty.com/government/warden-council/

Despite EORN’s initial goal being completed, many rural communities in the Hastings-Lennox and Addington region [4] still have poor quality internet or none at all. 

“We frequently have people come to use our internet and others who don’t but express frustration for the limited internet they can have at home,” said Adams.

“I think we have a desperate need for more high-speed internet and more affordable internet for people, especially right now with COVID and more people having to work or learn from home.”

With poor internet quality, as well as it not being an option for some people living outside the rural towns, many people gather at their local library to use the free wifi there.

“A lot of people have had to adapt due to the pandemic,” said Shannon Ruttle, a librarian from Tweed Public Library. “Maybe they didn’t have internet before and now they’ve purchased it and they might be having some issues because it’s not exactly what they thought it was going to be, especially when they are in the rural areas. They are paying for a certain plan and they have intermittent connectivity and issues like that so then they are coming in here and using ours … we try to help bridge any gaps when they are in dire need.” 

Phillips hopes the project the Ontario government has set up will ensure that better quality internet is brought to all of the people in the Hastings-Lennox and Addington region.

http://www.qnetnews.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Rick-Phillips-Ward-of-Hastings-copy.m4a [5]

“As an EORN member and as a supporter of EORN we will work with the federal and provincial government in whatever way we can to make sure that everybody in the county of Hastings and Eastern Ontario is covered.”