Wardens looking to bridge Internet gaps

Political leaders in Western Ontario want to figure out where the gaps in Internet service are in the region.

Geoff Hogan of the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus says the goal is to become an ‘Intelligent Community’ to draw some of the knowledge based businesses to the area.

“We’re very interested in rural economic development,” says Hogan. “There are two problems, the kids always want to move to the city because there is nothing to do at home…And our manufacturing economy was decimated in 2008…The knowledge economy is where the upper levels of government have identified where the jobs will be.”

One of the problems with attracting people building that knowledge based economy is the lack of Internet service in some rural area. In Lambton County for example there are three dead zones; Brick Yard Line/Forest Road/Arkona Road near Warwick, London Line/Forest Road in Plympton-Wyoming and along the St. Clair River near Sombra and Port Lambton.

Lambton County officials have been trying to attract Internet providers but all say it would cost too much money to invest for a small number of clients.

Communities in Eastern Ontario had a similar problem. They banded together and lobbied the federal and provincial government for cash to offer to the providers and now all the region is being serviced. Hogan says the Western Ontario wardens want to do the same thing. “It doesn’t matter what part of southwestern Ontario you are in, you get those types of pockets…We need to give people a way to connect.”

Hogan says WOWC is now surveying businesses and residents in the area about what type of service they have. Once they’ve figured out what areas are without service, they can put together a plan and approach the federal and provincial governments for funding to attract Internet providers. “It is expensive…It does cost a lot of money that’s why we’re looking at a regional approach…We want to build a better network for everyone.”

Hogan says that won’t only spur investment, it will improve everyday life for people in rural Ontario. “We have grandparents whose grandkids move away; they want to be able to Skype with them,” says Hogan. “It’s not just about jobs, its quality of life.”

To participate in the survey you can go to www.wowc.ca . Hogan hopes to have the results by June.