KING CITY, Ont. – Around the world communities are racing to bring broadband to business and homes in the belief that faster speeds on the information highway is the path to prosperity
That’s why representatives of York Region, a sprawling district north-west of Toronto with 1.1 million residents that includes offices of some of the biggest names in IT, is holding a two-day meeting here to find out how it can keep up with if not beat other communities across the country and around the world in broadband.
Leading-edge countries are planning speeds of at least 100 Mbps, the conference was told, while Canada waits for the federal government to announce its digital economy strategy.
“We here to talk about taking York Region to the next level,” Doug Lindeblom, the region’s director of economic development, said in an interview during the conference.
In particular the focus is on finding ways to help bring faster speeds to the six small jurisdictions in the northern part of the region, such as cottage country townships of Georgina and East Gwillimbury. Broadband is less of a problem for York’s biggest town, Markham, where IBM Canada is headquartered.
The hope is that bringing ultra-fast broadband to York’s rural communities will bring more of the economic activity there that the southern part of the region has earned.
King Township, where the conference is being held, illustrates some of the problems in the region. The biggest physical jurisdiction in York, it has a population of 20,000. But, said township mayor Steve Pellegrini said in an interview, only half have access to high speed Internet. And 95 per cent of the township is residential, he added.
“The thing is a lot of people have home businesses,” he said. “However, it’s becoming a limitation to some people because there isn’t the bandwidth they need.”
“We’re recognizing it’s critical to expand what we have to maintain and create prosperity,” Lindelbom said.
That’s why the region’s just approved 40-year vision statement which includes a goal of “facilitating the development of an advanced telecommunication technology infrastructure to support the innovation network across the region.”
The question is how to do it when a local government is not a telecom carrier. There are ongoing consultations with the region’s municipalities on that, and this conference is one way of gathering ideas from other Canadian jurisdictions that have begun to bring ultra-fast broadband to residents.
One way, Lindeblom said, might be to tie the broadband networks of York’s municipal, regional, school boards and hospitals together.