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Broadband essential

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Although it appears funding for two separate studies on the feasibility of delivering broadband access to rural municipalities and First Nations of Rainy River District won’t be forthcoming because of a push towards one regional effort, it is important that senior levels of governments understand the value of the Internet.

Today, to request Revenue Canada Taxation booklets, for instance, the application must be made over the Internet and the product downloaded. To apply for 2002 T-4 forms, the application again must be made over the Internet.

The federal government hoped most gun owners would register their fire arms over the Internet.

The provincial government is much the same. Legislation documents and announcements are all delivered electronically. The senior levels of government now rely almost exclusively on the Internet to communicate with the citizens of the country.

Students applying to post-secondary schools in Ontario, and to universities across most of Canada, now make their applications over the Internet. Canada Post now demands all electronic bulk mail be calculated over the Internet.

In essence, broadband Internet service is now at the stage where it is required to do business—not something that will be required in the future.

Since 1995, the Economic Development Committee of the Town of Fort Frances and the Rainy River Future Development Corp. have been working to bring this service to the community and district. Local business have funded some previous studies and the community has participated in a much larger regional organization to bring broadband to the region.

In short, the issue has been studied to death.

All previous solutions have indicated both the federal and provincial governments will have to spend upwards of $200 million to bring broadband access to Northwestern Ontario. However, both senior levels of government keep looking for cheaper solutions—and continue to fund additional studies (costing more money) to explore possibilities.

Less than two years ago, the Chrétien government in its throne speech announced a major initiative to connect Canadians with a $3-billion investment. That disappeared on Sept. 11, 2001 and the money transferred to security.

However, a country needs modern technology for its security. That technology helps business remain competitive and helps build the economy. That technology helps governments and people communicate and share information.

Today it is unknown if the federal government will return the funding to build Internet infrastructure.

Canada would never have had a transcontinental railway without major land grants and funding to the railways. The industries and trucking companies of rural Canada would never have built the highways to major centres if they had to provide all the funding.

Governments recognized that and built those roads and highways, the same way that most airports in Canada would never have been built without government funding.

Today, broadband Internet connections in Northwestern Ontario will not take place without substantial federal and provincial funding.

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