High Speed Internet: Boom and Bust

The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), the organization charged with improving high-speed internet in our area, announced a significant expansion to high- speed cell coverage. Like most initiatives, it has good and bad elements.

The ‘boom’ part is that more people will have more reliable higher speed cell service which for most will bring improved internet access.  This is what I use:  it is the only option at our place.  And we can stream and zoom easily.

The EORN contract is with Rogers. The promise is 99% high-speed cellular coverage along all major roads and in hamlets; 95% video streaming; and 85% high-definition streaming by 2025.  It is not clear what a major road is, or how close to the road you would need to be to get coverage, so it will definitely not cover everyone.

It will also significantly improve emergency services communication in the region.

The ‘bust’ in the announcement Is that it will needlessly continue some significant disadvantages for rural areas.  There is no mention in the announcement of fiber, which is more likely to offer unlimited data options.

There is also no mention of allowing other providers access to Rogers towers.  One of the problems with only having one provider is they can dictate pricing.  There is no “that is an outrageous price, I am going to take my business elsewhere.” 

The expansion will also provide 5G service, which will be faster but could we get more 4G for the same price?  

The lack of control on the price is more galling because half the cost of the upgrades is paid by tax dollars ($71 million from the federal government, $71 million from the provincial government and $10 million for local municipalities). A condition of the public subsidy could be that the network is open to all providers or that there is some sort of public dividend that could be used to control the price of service.  The private investors will get a dividend.

Essential networks like hydro and telephone were initially built by public corporations which provided good reliable service, at reasonable cost, and extended that same service to most rural areas.  Ontario Hydro was built as a public utility be conservative governments. This is the most cost-effective way to provide an essential service: one that is needed for the inclusive involvement of members of society, including rural and less well-off residents.

Shoreline Protection Bylaw

A Staff looked at municipal legislation and tree cutting bylaws from three townships, Haliburton County; and, Muskoka Lakes and Georgian Bay Townships, (the links take you to those three bylaws) to analyze ways to protect trees along shorelines (item 7.c on the March 9 agenda).

Some of the considerations are:

How much of the shoreline should be protected?

Should a permit be required for all shoreline tree cutting?

Or, should certain activities be allowed as-of-right, like creating a path to the water or cutting trees to protect a legal development, with permits only required for other cutting?

What should these “as-of-right” activities be?

Council discussed the issue and directed staff to create a draft shoreline protection bylaw and a process for broader community consultation.

ATVs through Verona.

Frontenac County is considering allowing ATVs to travel through Verona on the K+P Trail. For staff’s comments on the proposal go to item 9.b on the March 16 Council agenda.

The Township has recently acquired 20+ acres of land along the K+P Trail to lead a redevelopment of Verona, including housing for seniors.  The trail also runs along the back of the public school, making the Trail an essential part of any efforts to have children walk and bike to school.

At a recent meeting of the Friends of the Cataraqui Trail many residents commented on the disruption that ATVs cause, especially in the summer when people are outdoors, enjoying the quiet of their yard, or in the house with their windows open.  ATVs are a regular interruption.

ATVs are an important part of rural life but they are also incompatible with areas of population concentration. The Township and County need to work on the many ways ATVs and vibrant hamlets can both exist in a community.  One of them is not to have ATVs running through the middle of the largest population center in South Frontenac.

A motion passed at South Frontenac Council to support a temporary extension of ATV use in Verona until further information is available on the housing and other development plans for Verona.  A more important project would-be to find a parking place just north of Verona where ATVs can access the trail: that is a long-term sustainable solution.

About Ross Sutherland

retired nurse, researcher, public health care activist.
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