By Chad Ingram
Published Oct. 12, 2017
In an appearance on TVO’s The Agenda last week, Haliburton County Warden Brent Devolin spoke about the need for improved wireless connectivity to broadband, high-speed Internet in the county for its economic development.
When speaking about the importance of the Internet, Devolin uses an analogy involving roads and railways; just as railways were the essential economic connection for communities in the 19th century, and highways the key connector in the mid-20th century, today, an Ontario community without reliable wireless connectivity to the Internet cannot remain viable.
This is true. It’s difficult to understate how important comprehensive Internet connectivity will be to the future of Haliburton County.
There are still large swaths of the community with spotty wireless connectivity, and other areas with no connectivity at all.
In 2017, most local businesses use the Internet in some way. They have websites. They use email to interact with customers. They use social media accounts to promote their goods and services.
Not only will better connectivity assist existing businesses, many of which have relatively slow Internet service, it will be necessary for the creation of new businesses.
The creation of new businesses is integral to the community’s economic development.
The county wants to be able to market itself as a place where people can do business from the dock. This makes sense. However, right now, one’s ability to do business from the dock largely depends on just where that dock is located. There are many lakes where the idyllic notion of working on a laptop from an Adirondack chair overlooking the misty, calm water of the morning is currently impossible.
The idea of being able to relocate largely online businesses to cottage country is surely an attractive prospect to many, and in this way, the county is essentially in competition with other nearby cottage communities.
So not only does it need better connectivity, but it needs it soon.
The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, of which Haliburton County is a part, is working on a massive project to improve cellular networks and broadband connectivity throughout the region through the Eastern Ontario Regional Network. The project, which would also include a secure network for first responders, has an anticipated price tag of approximately $280 million and EORN has submitted grant applications to the federal and provincial governments.
The hope is for it to get underway in 2018. Its success or lack thereof will have a very direct bearing on the future of the county’s economy.
Just as the railway is Haliburton County’s past, the Internet is its future.