Improving access to internet in the rural and remote communities across the country, including the North, was a primary focus point for discussion at the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference in Quebec City May 30 to June 3. (123rf.com)

Canadian municipalities call for better internet access

Broadband access was a key topic of discussion at this year’s national conference

Association of Yukon Communities president Tara Wheeler says the annual Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Quebec City could have some positive implications for communities around the territory, particularly when it comes to internet access, provided the federal government listens to what the FCM is saying.

In a June 3 interview from Quebec as the conference was wrapping up, Wheeler said 96 per cent of the approximately 2,000 members attending the conference who voted for a resolution calling for improved internet throughout the country.

The resolution states: “That FCM urge the federal government to engage municipalities in the development of the Canadian broadband strategy and in the design and eligibility criteria of the new federal broadband fund”

The resolution calls on the federal government to “include considerations for evolving speed targets in the Canadian broadband strategy” and ensure that local needs are prioritized.

It will be a while before it’s clear whether that motion can be deemed a success, as that will depend on the federal government’s response, Wheeler said.

Plans for the strategy were announced by the federal government last October. A statement at that time read: “… access to reliable, high quality and affordable services are necessary for Canada’s success in a digital world, to allow all Canadian businesses, households, and public institutions to realize the economic and social benefits of connectivity through the use of advanced technologies and applications.”

Among the goals of the proposed strategy would be to move towards universal access of at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds throughout the country.

Small communities in the Yukon and across the country want to be part of that effort, said Wheeler.

Issues for rural and remote areas were a major part of the discussion on the second day of the conference with FCM members having the opportunity to bring issues around infrastructure forward to federal infrastructure minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

There was also a panel discussion on building vibrant rural economics featuring representatives from around the country.

“From agriculture to energy, from manufacturing to tourism, rural communities are vital players in this country’s progress,” said Ray Orb, chair of the rural forum.

“We’re making the most of the tools we’ve got to build better lives, and recent gains are helping. But to unlock the potential of our rural communities, we’ll need to modernize how we work with the federal government, and this election campaign is a pivotal opportunity to make that happen.”

The conference ran from May 30 to June 3.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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