Rural broadband access is not only essential for keeping up with the latest innovations and technologies in agriculture, it is also crucial to attracting a new generation of farmers.
- Precision agriculture is a data-based farm management approach that focuses on targeting inputs, reducing waste and improving management practices. It allows farmers to use the most innovative and sustainable practices, however a dramatic increase in internet connectivity is needed before we can see widespread adoption of these practices.
- A significant portion of primary producers in Canada lack access to broadband internet service, while a larger proportion are lacking access on a reliable basis.
- Lack of competition has led to problems of affordability, inconsistent servicing, inadequate download/upload speeds and lack of adequate investment of rural broadband infrastructure.
- Access to broadband internet is an important lifestyle consideration for all Canadians, particularly young people. If rural Canada and agriculture is to remain attractive to future generations, access to reliable broadband will be critical.
Working Toward Solutions:
CFA’s Rural Policy Committee put forth a series of recommendations to the federal government in their 2017 Pre-budget consultations, stressing the need for rural Canada to receive adequate attention in future broadband infrastructure spending.
- Develop a rural digital infrastructure strategy for rural Canada. Bring together telecommunications providers, rural communities, and agricultural stakeholders to lay out a clear vision and a strategy with clear targets to ensure that digital infrastructure, including internet and cell phone services meet the needs of all rural Canadians and contributes to a sustainable and vibrant rural Canada for decades to come.
- Define a clear goal for all Canadian households to be able to access 25 Mbps broadband internet service by 2020 (the “25 Mbps by 2020” goal), subject to annual updates to the definition of “basic” broadband. This would ensure Canada remains competitive with broadband access goals of Canada’s major trading partners, while providing a foundation through which the CRTC and service providers could address the growing disparity in service availability between rural and urban communities.
- Establish a new funding mechanism, supplemental to the existing National Contribution Fund, designed directly to target expansion, rather than maintenance of existing services. This mechanism should explicitly focus on reducing the broadband Internet access services gap between and within regions, including urban-rural discrepancies.