Garth Frizzell is a councillor for the City of Prince George and second vice president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. (Submitted)

COLUMN: National internet access plan needed in next federal budget

Garth Frizzell is a Councillor for the City of Prince George and Second Vice President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Imagine running a small business and not being able to sell your products online. Or being a nurse who can’t access electronic patient records. That’s the daily reality for many Canadians living in rural, remote and northern communities where poor broadband and cellular connectivity are the norm.

Right now in Prince George, the largest city in northern B.C., there are residents living within city limits without access to broadband. In our immediate region, there are vast areas with no access to high-speed internet, and critical highways networks that don’t have cellular coverage.

READ MORE: Faster internet coming to rural areas in northern B.C.

As a city promoting the natural benefits we have to attract data centres, it is critical to have reliable broadband access. Today’s competitive businesses, and our future economy, must keep pace with technology.

On a recent trip to Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut, I stayed in the Frobisher Inn, a large hotel overlooking the city. While we had access to Wi-Fi, a sign on the bed urged us to not use it unless it was essential. I learned the entire territory has access to about as much bandwidth as a teenager in Toronto uses every night.

And unfortunately, for two million Canadians, fast and reliable broadband or wireless connections remain out of reach. With numbers like that, it’s clear this is a national concern, and it must be fixed.

We know we can fix this, and progress has been made in the past. Federal investments like the $500-million federal Connect to Innovate program and the CRTC’s $750-million Broadband Fund are good first steps in bringing service to hard-to-reach areas. But the job is far from done.

READ MORE: B.C. MP pushes feds to fund rural internet infrastructure

On behalf of communities from coast to coast to coast, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is advocating a plan that has received industry-wide nods of approval. And FCM is looking to this year’s federal budget, set for release March 19, to detail a clear path to achieving truly universal broadband and mobile access in Canada.

What does that plan look like?

FCM believes the budget must include a national broadband strategy with clear service standards and timelines. And that strategy needs to be backed up with support – an investment of at least $400 million per year for 10 years.

High-speed connectivity supports everything from public safety and modern education to the conditions businesses need to innovate and grow. This is about enabling all Canadians to benefit from becoming active participants in digital life –improving the overall well being of our country.

It’s 2019. In a country as vast and diverse as ours, broadband isn’t just a “nice to have” – it’s a necessity. This upcoming federal budget is the time and place to welcome all Canadians into the digital age and ensure they have access to fast and reliable internet – no matter where they live.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

VIDEO: Police interview with Sagmoen made public

Defence lawyer says statements made by accused Curtis Sagmoen should be deemed inadmissible

‘I felt betrayed’: North-Okanagan Shuswap NDP candidate responds to Trudeau brownface photo

Harwinder Sandhu dismisses comments that there are bigger issues to focus on

Vehicle thefts prompt plea from Salmon Arm RCMP

Public asked to help by removing valuables and keys, locking vehicles up

Shuswap Theatre reduces barriers with inclusive opening of Wizard of Oz

Relaxed conventions open experience to people with autism, dementia, sensory disorders

Lego robotics to woodworking 101 at Salmon Arm’s Innovation Centre

Experienced Shuswap instructors share their passions through educational programs

VIDEO: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Liberal leader says he never spoke about the racist photo because he was embarrassed

Nanaimo beekeepers take down nest of invasive giant hornets

One nest eradicated at Nanaimo’s Robins Park, but there are still Asian giant hornets around

John Horgan promises action after fatal mid-Island bus crash

Premier cites students, local Indigneous community as reason to repair the road

On this day 126 years ago New Zealand women granted right to vote

New Zealand women beat Canadians to the polls by 26 years

B.C. health minister announces urgent care centre for Central Okanagan residents

The Kelowna-based health centre will support about 63,000 patient visits per year

EDITORIAL: Past actions haunt candidates

Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer dogged by incidents from earlier years

How to get that Spark Joy feeling

Barb and Wendy at Simply Spark Joy help you to create a clutter free home on the Black Press Media

Teens charged in stabbing death of B.C. man in strip mall parking lot

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, charged in Aug. 16 killing of South Surrey’s Paul Prestbakmo

B.C. Premier John Horgan worried about ‘rise of racism’

Asked to comment on Justin Trudeau’s ‘blackface’ incidents

Most Read