Making the connection; Harper promises more rural internet

In this photo-op, Lancaster dairy farmer Bruce McCuaig, second from right, talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen, and SDSG Conservative Guy Lauzon. The Conservatives announced Aug. 26, 2015 a continued commitment to putting high speed internet into rural areas of Canada. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANCASTER, Ont. – Speaking at an agricultural retailer, about 30 kilometers east of Cornwall, Ont., Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a commitment of more money for rural higher-speed internet.

Talking about “targeted and affordable” investments, Harper announced $200 million to support more fiber-optic infrastructure in rural areas of Canada, including Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, if the Conservatives are reelected.

Harper said more small businesses are conducting their affairs online and having access to broadband internet infrastructure will open up opportunities “that were once only open to the big guys.”

“Fast, reliable internet today is essential. To realize economic opportunity and to create jobs,” he said. “Right now, Canadians are selling products, managing relationships with customers and suppliers and recruiting new employees and doing all online.”

According to Conservative figures, 220,000 Canadians have already been connected in rural and remote areas between 2009 and 2012.

As part of the Economic Action Plan, there was a goal under the Connecting Canadians program of providing five-megabytes-per-second service to an additional 280,000 homes.

Harper told the audience in Lancaster the goal will be exceeded, with 356,000 households having access by 2017.

Harper underscored the money would be a one-time investment “not requiring ongoing government support…but the impact will be significant.”

His speech also touched on the continued “economic instability” in recent days, possibly alluding to the stock market correction which saw Chinese and North American markets tumble this week.

“Now more than ever is to stay the course with our government’s plan for jobs growth…our government’s balanced budget, low tax plan,” Harper said to a round of applause.

Rural broadband internet announcement “fitting” for SDSG: Warden

Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry Warden Eric Duncan, left, and South Glengarry Mayor Ian McLeod speak to reporters following a news conference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Conservatives are committing an additional $200 million to connect rural Canada to the internet if reelected. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry Warden Eric Duncan, left, and South Glengarry Mayor Ian McLeod speak to reporters following a news conference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Conservatives are committing an additional $200 million to connect rural Canada to the internet if reelected. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry (SD&G) Warden Eric Duncan called the announcement in the riding very fitting.

“I think it’s great. We’ve seen success here and it was kind of fitting and it was great to see it in our riding because, as part of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, you’re heard us talk a lot about that,” Duncan said.

“The federal government has invested $55 million in Eastern Ontario so when you talk about the numbers and you see the success we’re a perfect example now of how we’re better connected now because of that federal support,” he said.

Duncan added the federal government agreement will protect consumers by making it affordable to consumers in rural areas. “Part of the condition (when we did the EORN project) is, not only are you putting the infrastructure in there, it’s got to be affordable rates,” the warden said.

Duncan said it was very fitting to have the prime minister’s announcement in Lancaster – one of the first municipalities to have broadband support before federal government support was available.

South Glengarry Mayor Ian McLeod agreed.

“We had, what was considered high speed, but now would be considered very low speed internet, but it was the first program before the EORN project took off…it certainly helped businesses,” McLeod said.

Ten years ago, people moving to Lancaster or SD&G would ask about the nearest community center or hospital, Warden Eric Duncan said.

“The first question they ask now…’What’s your internet service like?’ and ‘What’s the cell service like?’ so that’s like the new phase of economic development.”

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