Soured on rural SD&G internet, cell coverage; Conservatives showcase plan

Local Conservative MP Eric Duncan (top, left) hosts a town hall on rural internet and cell phone connectivity on Wednesday, June 17, 2020. Joining the town hall were Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer (top, right) and Calgary MP Michelle Rempel Garner, who is the industry and economic development shadow minister. (Zoom/Eric Duncan via Newswatch Group)

SD&G – A former North Stormont councillor and warden of the United Counties of SD&G says nothing would convince him to set up an internet-dependent business in rural SD&G based on the connectivity the region has now.

Bill McGimpsey, who used to live in Moose Creek but now resides in Cornwall, was one of many frustrated residents during a Conservative town hall on Zoom Wednesday night on fixing the internet and cell phone infrastructure in the region.

It was hosted by MP Eric Duncan, along with industry and economic development critic Michelle Rempel Garner and Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer, who has a 10 year background in the telecom sector. It was also a chance for the party to show off its “Connect Canada” white paper on fixing the problem.

“We dealt with .5 and 1 (megabits per second) for speeds where everybody in the home had to turn off their cell phones to make sure you could watch Netflix,” McGimpsey explained. “People still go to their second floor, stand outside, to use their cell phones. When I hear 90 per cent of Canada, I think the other 10 per cent is us that’s not getting served.”

McGimpsey agreed with Garner and Patzer that the current Liberals’ plan for 50 megabits down and 10 up for the last 10 per cent of the country by 2030 is “way too far down the road.” Now living in Cornwall, he consistently gets 300-500 megabits per second.

“Nothing would ever entice me to go back to the country and set up a business that was dependent upon internet service these days,” McGimpsey stated.

Patzer responded that it was a “sad state we are in as a country” where substandard internet in rural areas is becoming a “barrier to economic equality.”

Other concerns brought up during the meeting were the cost difference from internet service providers between urban and rural internet and a lack of competition in the market.

Garner’s “Connect Canada” consultation report makes 14 recommendations such as overhauling the system for selling broadband and cellular frequencies, which Garner called “problematic.”

Based on their plan, the Conservatives believe the issue could be solved by the end of 2021.

Garner says it’s an issue where governments need to look at the broader systemic issues and not just throw money at the problem.

The party hopes the Liberals will “steal” some of their recommendations.

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