Hi-speed Internet: Red herring or Holy Grail?

Hi-speed Internet is not the answer,  just one part of an economic plan.

It’s seldom that the Mayors of Owen Sound, Georgian Bluffs, Meaford and Chatsworth speak with one voice.  This uncommon act of unity happened at the recent Mayor’s Forum hosted by the Owen Sound Chamber of Commerce. They unanimously declared that the future of economic development for the area is dependent on easy and affordable access to hi-speed Internet. But how fleeting was this rarefied group hug?

Not surprisingly, Owen Sound is forging ahead to make every home and business accessible to hi-speed Internet – the other municipalities appear to be on their own. So much for one voice. Battle lines were quickly drawn between building a public or private sector infrastructure. It was argued that the provincial government needed to classify hi-speed Internet as a public utility, a fibre optic corridor built through the Grey Bruce Peninsula, and of course paid for by the taxpayers of Ontario. While they’re at it, maybe the Province should take over mobile, cable and satellite TV service too.

Mayor Haswell stated that it was the job of the private sector to build the infrastructure and pay for it through user-fees.  Not surprisingly, Owen Sound is forging ahead to make every home and business accessible to hi-speed Internet – the other municipalities appear to be on their own. So much for one voice.  Isn’t it obvious that the municipalities are inter-dependent for economic growth and should be tackling this issue together?

Regardless of the solution, the premise that hi-speed Internet is the Holy Grail for economic development is a red herring. No one disputes the need for this service throughout the area but where is the evidence that it is the economic salvation for the municipalities? Will it really cause new businesses to stampede to the area and stimulate untold growth and prosperity for the business community? Are there not other municipal issues that would impede economic development that hi-speed Internet can’t fix? Rather than a panacea for economic development, hi-speed Internet is merely a tool to help businesses be competitive.

Improving the economic, political and social well being of communities is complex. It can only succeed if the municipalities create a comprehensive economic strategy for the entire area based on sound research, supporting data and realistic expectations.

Peter Reesor
red/white innovative marketing

 

2 Responses

I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts. To make sure that the Chamber is part of the discussions, we sent two committee members to participate in an “IT Taskforce on Fibre” February 11th and will be participating in the Western Warden’s caucus meeting April 25th where the topic of broadband will take center stage.

Steven Coffey, President, Owen Sound Chamber of Commerce

03.03.13

The Internet has become a national platform for communication and commerce, which support developments in important priorities such as education, heath care and energy. Without the synergistic growth of a local knowledge, innovation and technology companies to complement a high-speed internet infrastructure, we might as well use this newly gained bandwidth to stream Netflix movies. With reasonable assumptions for installation and equipment costs, customer adoption rates, services prices and market share, a fibre-based Internet is probably not financially viable in a rural Ontario. Developers will still use nothing more than the local Internet café, free wifi, laptops and their coding skills, to rapidly prototype an idea or minimum viable product and push it out to an audience at scale. You don’t need fibre for that!

Concerned big data consumer and Netflix junkie.

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