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Regional broadband strategy now complete

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

The rural parts of Durham are about to receive an internet upgrade, as the region plans to implement a new broadband strategy.

The plan is called “Connecting our Communities: A Broadband Strategy for Durham Region.

Broadband is essentially internet that is always on, which is something northern parts of Durham have often struggled with. It moves at higher speeds than dial up, and is able to transmit large amounts of data quickly.

According to the strategy, since Durham Region covers both rural and urban settings, maintaining strong and consistent internet has been historically difficult to do in rural areas, and reportedly gets worse the farther north one goes.

The strategy provided to council states broadband is important because “Society, and the global economy, is increasingly digital and online.”

The strategy also notes government services, business functions and entertainment options have all either started to, or have already quickly made the move online.

“The growing demand for fast service and constant connectivity highlights the need for fast, reliable, and affordable broadband service,” reads the strategy.

The strategy was completed in two phases, with phase one putting a focus on background and baseline information, gauging the quality of internet services available to both the public and private sectors, consulting with key stakeholders, and identifying any roles municipalities could play in broadband development.

The second phase focused on the preparation of the strategy by outlining actions the region could take to support broadband.

In 2016, the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC) established baseline broadband service targets required for Canadians to participate in the digital economy.

The target applies to residential users in urban and rural areas.

Benchmark speeds of 50 Mbps (megabyte per second) for downloads, and 10 Mbps for uploads, with an unlimited usage capacity, are the target.

The CRTC established a fund of $750 million over a five year span in support of reaching this target.

Currently, in urban areas Durham enjoy high internet speeds with multiple options for internet service.

These areas also have new broadband technologies, along with competitive prices.

There are very few connectivity issues in these urban areas, as the issues usually only appear in areas where the population density is lower.

For rural areas, customers face internet speeds that are generally lower with limited service options and fewer broadband technologies, while paying higher prices.

Rural internet services generally do not meet the guidelines set by the CRTC.

The region plans to take several actions to improve the broadband in northern areas, as well as to meet the CRTC’s guidelines.

The strategy says the region will leverage regional assets as their first action.

“The region can support the delivery of broadband services by permitting ISPs to co-locate on regional facilities and equipment,” reads the strategy.

These locations range from water and communication towers, to rooftops, utility poles, and other vertical infrastructure.

The region will also review policies and processes which may impede the development of broadband deployment.

A strategy is also underway to assess the current and future broadband needs of the region’s departments and facilities.”

The region will also support funding applications.

“In the past, this has included co-ordinating applications for funding programs offered by the Province of Ontario and more recently, as a supporter of ISP applications under the Connect to Innovate program,” the strategy reads.

The region will establish an internal staff leader to be the broadband co-ordinator, and also plans to form a broadband working group

According to the strategy, the working group will be comprised of local area municipal and regional staff.

The mandate of the group will include information sharing, problem solving, collaboration, and provide “input and insight on the development of policies, practices, and initiatives that support broadband deployment and the implementation of this strategy.”

A broadband information database will be created to document programs and initiatives currently supporting broadband technology, and speed testing to assess connectivity conditions across Durham.

The final action will be to develop a Durham Smart Cities framework.

“A Durham Smart Cities Framework would outline the objectives, approach and anticipated results of Durham enhancing its intelligent community status,” reads the strategy.

For more information on the broadband strategy, visit durham.ca