Study Aims to Improve Rural Internet Access
April 19, 2013 - News Release
Improving high-speed Internet access for rural residents of southwestern Ontario is the goal of a new feasibility study involving University of Guelph researchers.
Working with the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC), the Guelph team will survey public-sector organizations, businesses, farmers and residents about their needs for scalable, ultra-high-speed broadband and the availability of network infrastructure.
One in five Canadians — most of them in rural areas — lack Internet access.
In the first of several planned community seminars, rural community leaders met today at U of G to discuss existing and future Internet requirements.
“In recent years, different levels of government and the private sector have teamed up to develop Ontario’s rural broadband infrastructure, but the quality of service and affordability are still major concerns,” said Prof. Helen Hambly Odame, a rural extension expert in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development.
“Today’s meeting was about overcoming obstacles to one of the major drivers of agricultural and rural innovation.”
Wilson Halder, who is studying rural broadband use in Wellington County for his master’s degree in capacity development and extension, will be a research assistant on the project.
Canada was once a leader in Internet capacity, but parts of the country still lack access and rural broadband connectivity, said Halder.
“For me, this study and the community seminar has further illustrated the importance of Internet access and some of the challenges and requirements associated with meeting the concerns of those with limited access to broadband or none at all.”
Nicole Markwick, a recent U of G graduate and now a research assistant with the study, said: “We’re working towards better capacity and connectivity in the area. The social and economic implications are massive.”
Improved Internet access is a key to economic competitiveness and social development, according to WOWC. The organization says government, rural communities, service providers and business enterprises need to work together to overcome geographical, technical and financial challenges.
The study is funded by WOWC, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and the Ministry of Rural Affairs. To register for upcoming seminars or to complete the survey, visit www.wowc.ca.
Prof. Helen Hambly Odame
School of Environmental Design and Rural Development
519-824-4120, Ext. 53408
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