Quebec MP Marc Garneau notes there are Canadians living in sparsely populated rural areas that still do not have internet access. Garneau is proposing to have 1.5 megabytes/second internet by 2014, everywhere in Canada. The CRTC has already given $600 million for the project, and Garneau is asking for another $500 million from the federal government in order to reach his goal by 2014.
While rural towns may be less dependent on the internet now, its reach is constantly growing. The number of users has blossomed over 10 years, and with a wide range of internet–only services, advantages and companies, the web’s benefits are matching its growing size.
For students applying to university, being familiar with internet research is an advantage. It’s also useful for everyday educational services — Google, Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, and About.com are just a few websites that provide users with quick, useful information. Those who don’t have the internet can still use a library and books, but having the internet provides them with a more extensive resource of information in a short amount of time.
For those in rural communities, the need to get online will increase. While some farmers and rural families may not have the demand now, they certainly will when mail and banking move online. Likewise, if people from rural communities ever want to apply for jobs in a city, those without internet-savvy skills are at a disadvantage.
Additionally, providing internet services in every community may cause populations in rural areas to increase. Toronto is crowded enough, so developing smaller communities could be seen as an advantage.
A serious question to consider is who should fund this project. The Canadian government has a long history of creating and supporting infrastructure, such as creating the railroad and mail service in an attempt to connect Canadians and create a more global community. Although the railroad and postal service are still important, as technology changes, culture changes. The internet could be the new postal service, and without it, will Canadians ever have the chance to be completely connected?
Private companies won’t expand their services because they don’t see these areas as being profitable. However, the government has more issues to evaluate than just money, such as equal opportunities to communicate and encouraging nationalism among every Canadian citizen.
Communications services should be on the government’s radar because they abolish space constraints and connect citizens, making Canada a smaller country. And, like the railroad and mail service, it motivates us to develop even more and become a better, united country.
—The Gazette Editorial Board