Many residents throughout rural Canada have limited access to affordable high speed internet. This is mainly because the investment needed to install and operate state of the art internet services is expensive, and there is uncertainty in rural markets’ ability to return that investment.
Over the past three years, Blue Sky Net in partnership with FedNor and area Internet Service Providers have created a visual database of all of Northern Ontario including the areas that lack sufficient High Speed access.
“Every ISP that operates in Northern Ontario has contributed coverage information to our BAIMAP Project” says Susan Church, Executive Director of Blue Sky Net of their ongoing Broadband mapping project. “It’s quite clear that there is a divide between the more urban communities and those that are more dispersed when it comes to access to higher capacity internet services. What we want to do now is determine the demand for service improvements.”
Blue Sky Net based in North Bay along with similar organizations in Muskoka, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay have created an online broadband information portal called Connectednorth.ca. One of the many features of the portal includes a high speed service availability checker where visitors can search their street address to see what ISP delivers connectivity to their cottage, home or office.
“We’ve been working in broadband development for over a decade now and we recognize that there is a constant trend to demand higher capacities and speeds and we have no reason to believe that this demand will stop. The ISPs we work with realize this but are challenged by the costs to bring these services to market. A real focal point of Connectednorth.ca is to not only provide visitors with useful service-related information, but we also need visitors to participate in building a better internet for Northerners.”
Connectednorth.ca hosts an internet speed test to measure how visitor’s internet service is performing, in real time. Test results (not personal information) will be captured and shared with those who can make a difference - Internet Service Providers.
Also, visitors are encouraged to take a short Internet Access Survey. The responses to this will be linked to speed test results to get a more complete picture of a visitor’s internet usage and their desire to obtain a better connection.
“It is a bit of an experiment” says Church. “We’ve taken a cue from other campaigns that use crowd-sourced information to affect change. This is an opportunity for local residents to speak directly to the ISPs who can make investments based on these priorities.