Report From Parliament: Strengthening Access to Broadband in Rural Areas

As part of the stimulus phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, Budget 2012, $225 million was provided to Industry Canada over three years to develop and implement a strategy to extend broadband coverage to as many underserved households as possible. The biggest component of this strategy is the Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians program, which has helped provide broadband access to over 210,000 additional households.

As your Federal Member of Parliament, I recognized back in 2000 when I was first elected, that our residents needed access to the internet if we were to fully take advantage and participate in a knowledge-based economy. I am pleased that those efforts are now seeing fruition. Once we formed Government, and with co-operation and funding from all levels of Government and the private sector, things started to happen.

We have moved forward with a $170 million local broadband project to provide high speed, affordable internet to at least 95% of the homes and businesses in Eastern Ontario. The Community Access Program (CAP), that was implemented in 1995 to fill the gap in services until the information highway in rural Canada was built, is coming to a successful conclusion. When the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) is completed in 2014, that objective of the CAP program, internet connectivity, will have been met.  

Even with the successful conclusion of the CAP program, schools, libraries, charities and not-for-profit learning centres will continue to benefit from other Federal initiatives, such as the Computers for Schools (CFS) program. This program aims to provide access to computers for educational purposes as well as provide paid hands on work experience for youth, volunteer opportunities and partnership development.  

In Ontario, this program is delivered by the company Renewed Computer Technology (RCT).  RCT is a registered not-for-profit (NFP) that is licensed to operate the CFS in Ontario. 

A key component to this program is working with community partners to establish distribution points, promotion of the program and social service agencies in order to reach low income learners across the province.  Each community partnership is developed in order to meet the needs of its recipients and build on the strengths of each partner.

As your Federal Member of Parliament, I have arranged to meet with the Executive Director of this program to see what kind of partnerships could be developed in Renfrew County, including a satellite office/distribution site, if the need is demonstrated. I have also had some preliminary discussions with our local Board of Education as well as Algonquin College. The response has been positive. I encourage interested groups to get in touch with my office for more information.

As your Federal Member of Parliament, I am pleased to represent you on a variety of issues. Whether that issue is eliminating the long gun registry, promoting agriculture, international trade, AECL, the military or jobs in the working forest, I am here to serve you!

As always, if you have any concerns of a federal nature, or just want to share your views with me, please do not hesitate to contact my office.