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Session recordings and report are now available below.
For communities that are excited about the possibility of getting government funding for a broadband network, the reality is the odds are likely stacked ten-to-one against them. It is no secret that there will be insufficient government funding available to solve all of Canada’s rural and remote broadband needs. However, there is no reason to abandon all hope as there are other solutions available.
Broadband NOW is a conversation with the experts about financing and technology options that are achievable without the need to participate in a lottery or struggle for limited funds. This forum will take a critical look at applying the well-established Public-Private Partnership (P3) model to tackle community broadband projects. Most are already familiar with P3s, a traditional option that is used to implement a wide array of projects from hospitals to highways.
Broadband NOW intends to look at how connectivity, as an essential service can benefit from a new delivery methodology; in short:
On May 11th, the Broadband NOW panel of P3 and technology experts will describe how communities can use the P3 model to finance and operationalize their own networks efficiently and expeditiously. To ensure that the forum is relevant and targeted, the forum will examine broadband connectivity problem statements from two Canadian regions: Kenora District's DoKURA area and the District Municipality of Muskoka .
An event like this is the result of cooperation and belief in a cause, by many organizations. We would like to thank Canadian Rural and Remote Broadband Communities (CRRBC.ca) for organizing and hosting the event, and our sponsors from Calix, Cartt.ca, Corning, Crown Capital Partners, Graybar, ICF Canada, i-VALLEY and Plenary. We are also pleased to thank our key speakers from the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships, Community Network Partners, Digital Ubiquity, DoKURA, i-Neighborhoods, Kenora District, the District of Muskoka, and the Township of Lake of Bays. This report was prepared by i-VALLEY.
For those unfamiliar with DoKURA, it is a Non-Profit Corporation, incorporated under the laws of the Province of Ontario. DoKURA is short for District of Kenora Unincorporated Areas Ratepayers Association. It was formed 25 years ago (1996) to represent the interests of the over 25,000 permanent and seasonal residents who reside outside the organized municipalities and First Nations in the Unincorporated Territories in the southern portion of the Kenora District of Northwestern Ontario.
DoKURA’s territory is nearly 20% of Ontario’s geography. The territory has limited fibre optic service, line of sight internet using a cell phone-based connection, some towers that provide WISP service and satellite service.
Directors of DoKURA take the view that reliable, fairly priced and available internet is akin to rural electrification; it is a basic service and a right rather than a privilege. Following the logic of universal access, they would like every citizen in the DoKURA area to have access to internet service. In these rural locations, such as the Canadian Shield, the lack of internet infrastructure (especially fibre optic) and other limitations make a mix of satellite service, fixed wireless and expanded fibre optics, some of the choices needed.
In their opinion, network ownership is less the issue than transparency, commitment to keeping service levels at national standards, a reasonable connection cost and fair monthly rates. The presence of small to medium sized service providers would be helpful.
The District Municipality of Muskoka (District), more generally referred to as the District of Muskoka or Muskoka, is a regional municipality in Central Ontario. Muskoka extends from Georgian Bay in the west, to the northern tip of Lake Couchiching in the south, to the western border of Algonquin Provincial Park in the east.
A two-hour drive north of Toronto, Muskoka spans over 4,765 square kilometres, has more than 650 lakes over 8 hectares in size, and 38 wetlands designated as Provincially Significant, making it a popular cottage destination, but also creates a difficult landscape for installation of broadband infrastructure.
The District of Muskoka includes six lower tier Municipalities (Town of Gravenhurst, Township of Georgian Bay, Township of Muskoka Lakes, Town of Bracebridge, Town of Huntsville and Township of Lake of Bays) and two First Nations (Moose Deer Point First Nation and the Wahta Mohawk First Nation).
The region is made up of almost 71,000 individual land parcels. It is home to over 60,000 year-round residents, and an estimated additional seasonal population of 60,000 to 80,000. Seasonal residents spend considerable time in the District every year but would spend more time if they had reliable and adequate broadband services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that access to broadband connectivity is a basic and essential service for all Canadians. Broadband is required by residents to access online education, health services, online purchasing, government information and services, and general global information so that they have access to the latest advances in the local and global economy. Connectivity has also become a key factor in businesses competitiveness and many of our small businesses are experiencing significant hardships as a result of inadequacies in the current network. Broadband enables local communities, regions and nations to develop, attract, retain and expand job creating businesses and institutions.
Broadband is currently provided in Muskoka through a mixture of national, regional and local service providers. Due to this, some areas have a choice of providers while others, in more rural areas generally, have poor to no available service. Furthermore, even in areas where coverage may be available, the cost can be a barrier to access.
One major underlying issue is that broadband providers build in areas where they can receive the best return on investment and in Muskoka that is the urban communities. This means that underserved areas do not receive capital investments in broadband and those most in need are left behind.