High-speed Internet, low-grade water – Editorial (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal – October 12, 2017)


TOP-OF-THE-LINE Internet service, taken for granted in many other parts of Canada, is coming to the Far North of Ontario. Not all of Northern Ontario is so lucky. The federal and Ontario governments will spend $67 million to install 880 kilometres of fibre-optic cable to five remote First Nation communities surrounding the Ring of Fire mineral zone.

Once mining exploration leads to the major developments to produce chromite and a host of other minerals, reliable high-speed Internet will be seen as the essential service that it is. Nearby First Nations will enjoy enormous improvements in their own ability to grow and develop and participate in the economic boom – once they find a way to negotiate ways into it. The province has forced the issue with plans for an all-season road. Three First Nations are on board; the rest remain undecided.

Ironically, parts of the North’s biggest city, Thunder Bay, and a large swath of the region surrounding it, do not enjoy the same level of Internet reliability. There are customers of TBaytel, the city-owned telecommunications company, that still do not have access to consistent high-speed Internet connections.

“To top it off, cellphone service does not work here and we are only five kilometres up the road within city limits,” a customer wrote in a letter here earlier this year. But when they are fishing at the family camp near Geraldton, “lo and behold I have three or four bars of connectivity.”

Highway travellers from southern Ontario are alternately amazed and aghast at losing cell service for long stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway while TBaytel expands aggressively in other parts of the Northwest.

In rural communities surrounding Thunder Bay, high-speed Internet has been slow in coming and often remains spotty, whether from TBaytel or Bell. Perhaps a few of TBaytel’s annual $17-million dividend payments to the city might better be invested in consistent Internet service for all of its customers.

Many Northern Ontario customers can only dream of the luxuries of fibre-optic cable – the very best delivery method – that five small First Nations will receive. Good for them; so not good for thousands more people waiting farther south – or for that matter, hundreds of First Nations across the province without good water.

On the same day the fibre-optic project was revealed, Ottawa and Ontario announced $13 million to pay for clean water and wastewater projects in 235 First Nations across Ontario. Perspective: $67 million for Internet in five communities (and the Ring of Fire); $13 million for water and wastewater projects in 235 First Nations where boil-water advisories are rampant.

For the original source of this editorial: http://www.chroniclejournal.com/opinion/high-speed-internet-low-grade-water/article_41b73e3e-af5b-11e7-acfe-d3d198bfc7eb.html