For most Canadians, the cost and speed of internet are notoriously pretty brutal, but nobody is harder hit by the country’s lacklustre telecom space than the people who live in rural communities. It’s often too expensive for the big companies to justify investing in infrastructure there, and so many communities are left with extremely slow and expensive connections—basically, living in the 90s.
Now, the Canadian government is committing just under $10 million in funding to give high-speed internet to more than 3,500 households in 22 rural communities in the Western provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia.
“This investment will benefit the middle class and those working to join it in rural and remote areas in Western Canada,” Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr, who made the announcement in Winnipeg, Manitoba on Tuesday morning, said in a statement emailed to Motherboard.
The funding will go to several small service providers in the targeted provinces, including the First Nations-owned Arrowhead Technology Group in Alberta. Indigenous communities in Canada are often underserved by telecom companies, leading some to band together and build their own internet infrastructure.
“There are First Nations in other parts of the country who use the internet to reduce trips to urban centres for routine medical appointments,” said Don Walker, Chief Financial Officer of Manitoba-based CommStream, which will also receive funding, in a statement.
Groups like FirstMile have long advocated for decent internet connections in First Nations communities on the grounds that it can allow them to access online education and medical resources if they are underserved or in a remote area.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) made it an official government service objective for every Canadian to have high-speed internet access last year. But experts said that the Liberal government’s 2017 budget, released in March, didn’t include the funds needed to accomplish that lofty goal.
“We are establishing as a universal service objective that Canadians in remote and rural areas, as well as urban centres, should have access to voice services and broadband internet access services on fixed and mobile wireless networks,” outgoing CRTC commissioner Jean-Pierre Blais said in a press conference at the time.
Tuesday’s funding comes under the auspices of the Connecting Canadians program, which aims to extend high-speed broadband internet to 300,000 homes by 2019.
Today, the government covered another 10 percent of that goal—slow and steady wins the race?
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