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Report finds broadband speeds in northern Ont. still slower than southern Ontario

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A yearly report from Blue Sky Economic Growth Corp. finds northern Ontario communities continue to lag behind southern Ontario when it comes to adequate broadband connection.

The 2024 Northern Ontario Broadband Report found Internet speeds are significantly lower in the North compared to counterparts in the south.

“We are definitely lacking,” said executive director Susan Church.

Looking at the numbers Tuesday morning, Church said the data shows northerners struggle to get a standard speed when surfing the net.

“It’s not just about getting on Facebook. It’s not just getting on video games,” she said.

“It’s the opportunities for E-health and opportunities for education. The things we rely on every day.”

Both the federal and provincial governments have set a target for households to get a stronger connection. Ottawa is pushing to connect every home by 2030, the province’s goal is 2025.

“Let’s be clear, the federal and provincial governments are committed to reaching these goals,” Nickel Belt Liberal MP Marc Serré told CTV News.

A yearly report from Blue Sky Economic Growth Corp. finds northern Ontario communities continue to lag behind southern Ontario when it comes to adequate broadband connection. (Eric Taschner/CTV News)

New data from the report shows nearly 93 per cent of all Ontario homes have at least a standard Internet speed of 50/10 Mbps (megabits per second).

Of the 286 communities within the region of northern Ontario, only 74 communities have at least 50 per cent of households with access to 50/10 Mbps broadband speeds.

However, coverage in the North sits only at 73 per cent. That number is even smaller (52 per cent) when isolating the five largest cities located in the north, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, North Bay, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie.

“The problem we have today is the agreement with the province prioritizes fibre,” Serré put bluntly.

Hundreds of billions of dollars

“I’d love to have fibre all over northern Ontario but we’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars.”

$1 billion has been set aside for broadband internet projects in the north. Data shows progress on these projects has been slower than the rest of Ontario.

“In the next few years, there is an opportunity to utilize the existing providers in northern Ontario to make sure that they could apply for the government funding, utilizing, you know, broadband, utilizing wireless microwave equipment,” Serré said.

The completion rate in the north is just under nine per cent, while the rest of Ontario sits at 42 per cent.

“I know that everybody thinks fibre is the be-all and end-all, and we do have satellite in low earth orbit, like Starlink that do provide stack stopgap measures. Those can be very expensive,” Church said.

“Look at creative solutions. Wireless internet service providers have really brought us as far as we are right now. I fear sometimes we’re looking for a big, grandiose solution when sometimes it’s right in front of our face.”

Church said people without a strong connection should continue to advocate for a better speed.

To read the report in full, click here.

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