'It's about bringing service to an underserviced area': Municipalities aim to bring fiber optic internet to rural communities
Published Thursday, March 8, 2018 9:44AM CST
Last Updated Thursday, March 8, 2018 8:20PM CST
A number of municipalities surrounding Winnipeg are supporting a feasibility study to look at bringing fiber optic internet to rural Manitoba residents who don’t have it, and aren’t likely to get it through private corporations.
The Partnership of the Manitoba Capital Region is made up of 17 municipalities, 11 of which are behind the plan to examine the possibility of a quicker connection.
The municipalities on board include Rosser, Ritchot, East St. Paul, West St. Paul, St, Francois Xavier, Macdonald, Tache, Rockwood, St. Clements, Heandingley, and St. Andrews.
The idea was brought forward by RM of Macdonald Reeve Brad Erb, after hearing complaints from rural residents.
“They’re frustrated by the level of service they’re being provided with, and they don’t see any opportunity for improvement in the future,” said Erb.
“They don’t view it as a luxury anymore, they view it as a staple. And something they want in their everyday life.”
Erb said he began consulting with officials from the RM of Morris and the Town of Morris, who heard similar complaints from people living there.
While Morris doesn’t fall under the partnership, representatives are behind the feasibility study in hopes of eventually bringing better service to the area through internet owned by the municipalities.
Morris’ participation is being applauded by the Executive Director of the Partnership of the Manitoba Capital Region Collen Sklar, who told CTV this isn’t a project limited to the 17 municipalities under the association.
“As you start to connect you can go further out, and more and more municipalities can join the process,” said Sklar.
While the feasibility study is just being launched, Sklar said they hope to have a clearer understanding of how far any service could potentially reach and how it would be financed.
“It will look at how the service would be engineered, the cost, the cost per household, of course only the participating households,” said Sklar.
“Also staging it to see how we could do the region within a certain period of time. It will give us the information to base any decisions on in the future. “
Erb also stressed that any future service for rural residents, regardless of what it looked like, would be opt-in only.
“We’re trying to provide a better service to rate payers, without them having to be forced into something that is a tax burden to them.”
Erb also said he floated the idea of the feasibility study by people living in Macdonald, who looked forward to hearing the results.
La Salle resident Stephanie Arnason told CTV News the internet provides her with a platform to stay connected with family and friends, while also hunting for a third job.
“I watch YouTube videos. I use it for work, social media, so it definitely means a lot,” said Arnason.
Arnason isn’t the only family member regularly surfing the web, and she said the whole family is slowed down by buffering.
“Stuff sometimes doesn’t load at all and then I have to disconnect from my Wi-Fi and wait for it to try and load,” said Arnason.
Upon hearing about the feasibility study, Arnason said a quicker connection couldn’t come quick enough.
“It would help a lot.”
Some communities under the Partnership of the Manitoba Capital Region not behind the feasibility study include the Town of Selkirk.
Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson told CTV News while he wasn’t against the study, it simply wasn’t necessary in his community where residents already have access to the service.
The feasibility study is expected to take three months.