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Universal access to high-speed internet must be a national priority: FPAC


August 30, 2021
By P&PC Staff

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The Forest Products Association of Canada believes that the provision of connectivity for all Canadians is necessary for Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery. The subject of post-pandemic recovery plans to create opportunities for Canadians is expected to come up during the federal election campaign debates.

FPAC further notes that since the onset of the pandemic, there is a drastic change in the way many people work and live. People rely on digital networks to stay connected to family, friends, jobs and other parts of their daily lives. However, around two million Canadian households are digitally under-serviced and only about one-third of Indigenous communities have access to high-speed internet. It is unacceptable that so many communities and Canadians are without a service so essential to life, says FPAC.

Canada’s forestry workers and their families touch more than 600 communities across the country – most of which are in rural and northern communities. Canadians rely on this industry to produce a range of in-demand goods, including hygiene products like tissue and toilet paper, masks and gowns for the health care sector and packaging for food, among other things.

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Reliable internet access or cell coverage is an imperative that allows the forestry workforce to use basic technology to efficiently streamline operations, attract young workers and meet customer demands. The community safety element to universal connectivity is too important to overlook – especially in the face of worsening natural disturbances like the devastating fire season this year.

The launch of the Universal Broadband Fund in November 2020 was a step in the right direction. As the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Rural Forum chair Ray Orb said in response to the $1.75 billion program, “It’s time for rural communities across the country to have reliable internet access. This is about making sure local businesses have the tools they need to succeed and that families can access quality healthcare and education. Entire communities rely on the internet to connect and grow, we need to get to work on bridging Canada’s connectivity gap.”

FPAC is in complete agreement with this statement.

Ottawa recently announced more than $1.4 billion in funding to extend broadband internet to approximately 40,000 homes in rural and remote areas. However, says FPAC, there needs to be a greater level of collaboration and investment by government, regulators and those who build the networks. This will help create a greater level of equity across the country – and ensure that rural and northern communities aren’t left behind.

In working with its members across the country, FPAC continues to share with Ottawa decision-makers the updated lists on the dozens of municipalities and Indigenous communities with forestry connections that do not have the cell and internet access they need.

FPAC hopes that during this federal election campaign all parties will continue to support the important call to ensure all Canadians have reliable access to high-speed internet. The future of the northern and rural communities and their ability to strengthen their post-pandemic economies depend on it.