Rural Connection project to eliminate ‘digital divide’


By Karen Fallon

The town’s manager of information and technology Dave Carpenter, accompanied by Don Ticknor Xplornet Corporation and Dr. Todd Sands, executive director and CIO, CSCI, reported on the status of the Rural Connections Project at the Nov 26 meeting.

“We thought it would be important to bring council up-to-date on a project that is nearing completion and has been more than two years in the making,” said Carpenter.

The Town of Amherstburg was approved for funding by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs through, The Rural Connections Broadband Program,   commonly known as, Rural Connections.

The program was established to provide “affordable, accessible and efficient broadband access” for underserved rural residents and small businesses,” notes Carpenter in a report to council.

“This project is important because it allows most of our residents access to high speed Internet which is becoming a mainstay and critical to our daily lives,” said Carpenter.

In 2012, Xplornet was awarded three Rural Connections Broadband projects providing 4G Fixed Wireless service to residents and businesses in the towns of Amherstburg, Kingsville and Lakeshore which will include 17 4G towers.

Ticknor says Xplornet provides services across Canada to 100 per cent of rural population via either fixed wireless or satellite Internet broadband.

“We need this hybrid approach to get access to rural Canadians,” said Ticknor. “Our goal is to eliminate the digital divide in Canada and ensure everyone has access to broadband no matter where they live.”

Building a Bridge to Prosperity project proposes to connect permanent and seasonal residents on Boblo Island with the mainland through broadband bandwidth.

Dr. Sands, the Chief Information Officer with the Center of Smart Communities Innovations with the University of Windsor, says the university has a mandate to support “intelligent things in Essex County.”

“The on-line world is touching all of us in everything that we do, from how we live, work, play, invest and it is not going away,” said Dr. Sands. “What we realize that to establish growth and development in the region…we have to attempt a hundred per cent coverage area for what the government described as high-speed connectivity.”

Councillor John Sutton extended “thanks” to Carpenter on behalf of Amherstburg residents: “I know you have worked hard for a number of years to get this project moved forward.”

“The great news for all concerned is that there are 200 of our residents who didn’t have broadband connections before now do,” said Sutton. “This is without any cost to the town itself.”

Since launching Rural Connections in 2007 the provincial government has partnered with rural municipalities on 54 high-speed Internet infrastructure projects.

This results in half a million rural residents and businesses having access to broadband service. This number is projected to grow to 550,000 when as other such projects come online in early 2013 and one million when a related project the Eastern Ontario Regional Network completes construction in 2014.

In 2011, the Intelligent Community Forum, a body that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community, identified the Windsor-Essex region as one of the most intelligent communities in the world.

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