With the potential for the COVID-19 to accelerate migration from cities to rural areas, it’s time for all levels of government to stop their dithering and accelerate efforts to provide broadband and cellular wireless services to rural and remote populations.
The infighting between provincial, federal and municipal authorities has gone on for at least two decades, with little addition of services outside of wealthier regions adjacent to major cities.
Where COVID-19 outbreaks happen in population-dense urban settings, people want to move. Many reasonably expect that Internet services, as essential communications utilities for work, health, research and entertainment, will be available wherever they resettle. And while it’s technically possible to provide such service, a lack of political will and ingrained ideological thinking are limiting progress.
With a few exceptions, community telecom services remain exclusively in the domain of the for-profit corporate sector. Henry Mintzberg, PhD, Cleghorn professor of Management Studies at McGill University, challenges such enterprise-based orthodoxy. He’s an advocate of what he calls the “plural sector” – essentially not-for-profit organizations designed to support community-led initiatives.