Building out the Town’s infrastructure is obviously a critical, and much discussed element of ensuring our future. When people hear about infrastructure, they typically think of roads and water services. And while those are vital in today’s world (and topics of great interest in TBM), reliable access to the internet has become an important part of modern infrastructure, especially with the lifestyle changes brought about by the pandemic. It is a logical contributor to our sustainability strategy, as it helps to ensure economic growth and provides support to the agriculture sector, as well as enabling social connectedness and equity.
The TBM is attempting to address this need through their RABIT initiative. RABIT, or Rural Access to Broadband Internet Technology, is a program being run by the Town to help fill gaps currently experienced in parts of TBM to reliable internet services. There are two broad parts to the RABIT plan;
– the first is to identify areas in TBM which require upgrades to their internet signal. A campaign was launched on May 5, in coordination with the Canadian Internet Regulatory Agency, to get TBM residents to conduct a test on the strength of their current internet service, and report their results to the Town. This information will allow the Town to map out current internet effectiveness across TBM.
– the second part of the plan is to engage local telecommunications suppliers – either in the Town or the broader region – to determine interest in conducting pilot projects to address coverage gaps in specific areas. These suppliers operate on a smaller scale than the big national entities, and are therefore interested in more localized opportunities that don’t meet the financial return threshold larger companies set. There are three potential suppliers submitting proposals.
Through this initial phase, the Town will be determining the role it can most productively play, which could include;
– helping suppliers identify where opportunities exist to expand internet service and support their efforts to access available federal and provincial funding
– Town led projects to lay roadside conduits for fibre optic cable placements. It is the preference of the BMRA that the Town avoid investing their own funds in this regard, if the projects can be made viable through other sources of capital.
– encourage developers to lay these conduits in new developments, as is being done in Caledon
The Town has also begun working with other Grey County partners to determine if there are cross municipality projects that could be undertaken. A broader program – SWIFT or Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology – is underway across SW Ontario. TBM has to this point made significant contributions to this initiative, but to date we have not received any investment back into our town. Council is working with the County in an attempt to have some future SWIFT funding directed to TBM.
The BMRA believes enhanced internet services will provide major benefits to TBM residents in the years ahead. RABIT should be an important contributor to those efforts, and will help to ensure a sustainable future, if the Town can make the vision a reality.