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Peckford: High-speed internet for all must be a priority in the age of COVID-19

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Many parents and professionals, including myself, are wringing their hands about back-to-school and work arrangements for the fall. As a mother of three school age kids, I fully understand the limitations of virtual learning. My kids yearn for human contact and a screen is, at best, a one-dimensional experience they tolerate, not embrace as a substitute for school.  Plus, unfortunately, we can’t always count on the internet to deliver.

But as mayor of North Grenville, a high-growth community immediately south of Ottawa, I am deeply aware that public health must come first. Should keeping kids out of the classroom (or offering a hybrid program), among other measures, become the only way to ensure we get through a second wave without another massive economic disruption, I can accept that, for myself and my community.

What I can’t accept is poor rural internet service that risks leaving many of my residents, businesses and much of Ontario behind. Without an ambitious federal- provincial strategy that prioritizes the establishment of truly high-speed, reliable rural broadband networks (i.e. a gigabit), access to education, health care, jobs and Ontario’s long term economic recovery are in jeopardy.

The urgency of the matter is akin to urban transit, and the dollars to fix it are comparable. However, its impact will have an equalizing effect across the province, ensuring that no matter where you live, COVID-19 will not exact more of a price than it already has.

Related News  Independent review into Nova Scotia mass killing to be announced later today

Nancy Peckford is mayor of North Grenville, and an advocate for the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s plan to bring a gigabit to every household, business and institutional setting in eastern Ontario.

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