A broadband pilot project in the rural community of Chapleau, Ont. is fixing to stimulate economic development.
Project Chapleau, launched jointly by Bell Canada and Nortel Networks Canada last November, is providing high-speed broadband access to the town of approximately 3,000 residents.
Gwyneth Edwards, program director for Project Chapleau, Nortel Networks, said that the key challenge to implementation was the transport network.
“The first thing we did was upgrade the transport network going into the community in order to handle all that traffic,” said Edwards. “When you talk about remote and rural communities a lot of the challenges come in the miles in between in transport.”
Chapleau already knew that the barrier to getting access into the community was the transport network, she said.
“We had been at work for years trying to address the deficiencies we had in terms of access to broadband and it came back to that same barrier each and every time,” said Les Jones, Chapleau’s treasurer. “Looking at the economics of the upgrade to that network it was a huge obstacle to overcome.’
In a sense it was also an upgrade for the community, according to Jones.
The broadband access means increased access to opportunities with respect to health care and education which Jones said is not lost on the residents of Chapleau.
“People have also become more knowledgeable through community forums where we kept them apprised of the project status,” he said. “It’s also kept residents in tune with technology and its applications through active training for a variety of groups in the community including municipal staff and staff in schools and in health care.”
Jones and his colleagues are looking at potential developments around the use of the Internet to help promote Chapleau through a community portal that they’re developing with Bell and Nortel.
“We’ll help raise awareness about respective organizations and from the development point of view this offers the potential for local businesses to begin thinking about a much bigger marketplace to promote their wares or services,” she said.
Along with potential benefits to the economy, the project has already impacted education, according to Edwards.
“By providing them with more Wide Area Network (WAN) access and increasing the bandwidth in all the schools, and putting in more laptops…they could transfer more data and could keep in touch with their school boards a lot more efficiently,” she said.