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Lack of quality internet frustrates many local users

'We're supposed to be a city, and 52,000 people should have reliable internet'
20200610 jeff wilson
Peninsula Rd. resident Jeff Wilson is frustrated by the poor internet quality in his area. Submitted.

Jeff Wilson lives on Peninsula Rd. in North Bay and he's becoming increasingly frustrated with the poor internet service he receives.

So he's interested in the provincial government investing $150 million in reliable broadband and cellular service.

The funding will help create more economic and educational opportunities in rural, remote and underserved areas of the province.

It's called Up to Speed: Ontario's Broadband and Cellular Action Plan.

"By investing in reliable broadband and cellular service, we are helping to create greater opportunity for our families, farmers and small business owners in rural and remote areas of this great province," said Premier Doug Ford.

See: Ontario announces $150 million for broadband, cellular connectivity

Access to broadband is a core component of the province's Learn at Home plan. Reliable Internet, particularly in rural and regional areas, is essential to supporting students' success in school.

Wilson will believe it when he sees it. He's sent emails to Mayor Al McDonald, MP Anthony Rota and  MPP Vic Fedeli about providing more reliable and affordable internet.

"What we are relying on is satellite internet, which is extremely unreliable and overpriced or we have to use what's known as a mobile internet Rocket stick that you plug into a laptop to get a cellular signal."

They don't work well and have data caps on them that Wilson says "are extremely expensive."

"It's terrible, absolutely terrible," Wilson told BayToday through a landline phone that was constantly cutting out. He says Bell won't improve service because he was told they are not investing any more money into landlines. "Why would we, it's dead technology," Wilson says he was told.

Wilson moved to North Bay from Toronto last August.

"We decided we'd had enough of Toronto and so moved up here full-time and we've been trying to get decent internet up here for months, and I've talked to neighbours who say it's ridiculous."

To get five gigs of data Wlson pays $60 per month.

"When you get up to 50 gigs of data, and let's face it when that's your primary internet, you're paying $150 a month with four dollars a gig after that.

"So if you've got people working from home or e-learning, that 50 gigs gets consumed in one week."

Wilson wants local leaders to push for progress on the issue.

"We're supposed to be a city, and 52,000 people should have reliable internet, There are a lot of homes on Peninsula and they don't offer anything like fibre internet. I'm trying to get some answers from McDonald, Rota and Fedeli. I want to know what is their plan to improve internet.?

"Al McDonald lives in Corbeil and when I had a phone call with him he said 'We've got satellite internet and it's not very good either,' so then do something about it."

In late 2015 Blue Sky Net launched as part of its Broadband and Associated Infrastructure Mapping and Analysis Project (BAIMAP) initiative.  It should be helpful to those who experience challenges in obtaining access due to availability, or lack thereof. 

A key feature is a search engine where visitors can search a civic address for available broadband service providers at that location, what kind of internet is available, as well as anticipated speeds and contact information for the Telecommunication Service Providers.

From late 2015 there have been just over 4,500 speed tests completed that can be verified and 4,330 within northern Ontario.

The test results provide useful insight into averages of upload and download speeds for those in northern Ontario.

A PDF copy of the report can be downloaded here: Connectednorth Speed Test Report

Of the 4,330 speed tests recorded within Northern Ontario, the average download speed was just below 9 Mbps and the average upload speed was just above 5 Mbps.

See all the results here.

MPP Michael Mantha, NDP Northern Development critic. blasted Ford's announcement on broadband.

"Northerners and rural Ontarians deserve more than Doug Ford’s year-old re-announcements on broadband that shows a lack of investment in their communities just when they need it most," he said.

“This week, Ford pretended to announce Broadband funding. But his announcement was actually made in 2019, and since then the provincial government has only spent a fraction of what they told Ontarians they would invest,” said Mantha.

“The re-announcement shows Ford is failing to invest in broadband during the pandemic when families need it most.

“Families without broadband are struggling to work and have their kids finish the school year,” said Mantha. “Businesses whose clients depend on rural customers are hurting. They are all waiting for this government to take action, and they need that help now.”

According to the Infrastructure Estimates, the Ford government budgeted $31.8 million towards the broadband program in 2019-20, but only spent $13.1 million.

“Doug Ford has no excuse for not releasing the funds allocated to broadband,” said Mantha. “Families need it now more than ever, and the Ford government needs to act immediately to get workers, school kids, and businesses online.”

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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