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Georges Bilodeau is the mayor for 1, people who live along the Transcanada Highway in Huron Shores.
There is a fibre optic cable running through the town, but very few can connect to it. The internet service in the area ranges from spotty to non-existent. He was speaking to one internet provider who told him that his town had been labelled "NWD. Not worth doing?
I am sorry. We are alive, we are living and we want to be part of the 21st century," says Bilodeau. He is now leading efforts to create a public utility for internet that would serve 37, homes and businesses on Ontario looking to write home North Shore of Lake Huron and Manitoulin Island. His group is now bidding against private telecoms for the millions in government grants currently up for grabs, seeking 25 per cent of their infrastructure costs from the provincial Improving Connectivity for Ontario ICON program.
Hearst started its own internet utility inafter years of frustration with service that rarely topped 10 megabits per second. He says owning the hydro poles for hanging fibre optic cable and having in-house engineering expertise was a big advantage for the forming of Hearst Connect in They did everything in their book to stop us," he says. Hearst Connect general manager Tania Cossette says they currently have about 1, customers, have been ing up more and more during the pandemic, and are still expanding their fibre optic network around the town of 5, She says the plan is to turn a profit in the next few years and return annual dividends to the Town of Hearst.
Brian McCullough, director of business development for Sudbury-based Vianet, says he understands the frustration of small towns in the north seeking better service.
But he says it's best for the federal or provincial government to connect them with a private partner who can serve their town, like Vianet did with Chapleau inwhen it became one of the first small communities in the country to get full fibre optic service. My answer is no they shouldn't," says McCullough. It was started to provide telephone service to corners of the north, where Bell had yet to reach, and then branched out into the internet business, eventually running its own fibre optic network. One exception is Agilis Networks, a business internet provider owned by Greater Sudbury Utilities, which is owned by the city.
Its fibre optic network was started in the s to attract call centres to Sudbury. But vice-president Josey Frescura says, inthe company moved from an economic-development focus to being a for-profit company that is owned by a public utility. Frescura says they do hear the odd grumble from private sector competitors, but says Agilis started its service before any of the big telecoms were interested in getting into that business in the north.
So if they cry foul afterwards, it's kind of a moot point to be honest with you," he says. After decades of promises to improve internet service in northern Ontario, there is definitely frustration with the current model of private providers filling in gaps with the help of rounds of government funding.
Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities president Danny Whalen thinks increased competition, most likely from new satellite internet providers, is the best way to improve service and lower prices for northerners. Sault Ste. Marie city councillor Matthew Scott says he would be nervous about a public internet network competing with private companies, but says it's easy to see how it should be in the same category as other public services, like electricity or drinking water.
It impacts every bit of your life. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik. Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
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Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time. the conversation Create. Already have an ? Is making internet a public utility the best way to get northern Ontario connected?
CBC News Loaded. Private internet providers are right now bidding on millions of dollars in government grants to expand internet service in northern Ontario. But some want to keep that money public and make going online a public service, like switching on a light or turning on a tap. Social Sharing. Morning North Disconnectt - internet service in northern Ontario - should it be a public service? Erik White journalist.Deployed Manitowaning, Ontario looking to write home
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