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Rural eastern Ontario internet too slow, politicians say

Upgrades are needed to make broadband internet service faster in rural eastern Ontario, politicians say, and they're making their case for more funding at a CRTC hearing that began Monday and ends later this month.

'Demand for internet speed is constantly increasing'

Upgrades are needed to make broadband internet service faster in rural eastern Ontario, politicians say, and they're making their case for more funding at a CRTC hearing on broadband service in Canada that began Monday and ends later this month.

In 2015 a rural broadband network started providing high-speed internet to more than one million people across 50,000 square kilometres of rural eastern Ontario.

David Fell, CEO of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, says more funding is needed to make the existing rural broadband network faster in eastern Ontario. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

But the network had been planned years earlier, and since then, the needs of residents have changed dramatically.

"Demand for internet speed is constantly increasing. When we started in 2010, Netflix didn't exist in Canada and now 40 per cent of the internet traffic is people using it for Netflix," said David Fell, CEO of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, which was created by the Ontario Wardens' Caucus to provide higher speeds and bandwidth to at least 95 per cent of homes and businesses in eastern Ontario.

More money is needed to improve speed, and to also upgrade cellular broadband service, Fell said.

"A lot of the internet traffic is moving to mobile devices, so we're advocating to both the federal and provincial governments to increase cell broadband infrastructure as well to eastern Ontario," Fell added.

'More capacity'

Peter Emon, the warden of Renfrew County and chair of the Eastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus, said the government's regulatory framework needs to change to designate broadband internet an essential service, and to make rural internet service on par with urban service.

"[Rural residents] want it quicker, they want faster downloads, they want more capacity to download bigger files," he said.

"We think it should be an equal price point, and that means the federal government and the provincial government and local governments are going to have to band together to ensure that that service is there at an affordable rate."

The CRTC's hearings on broadband internet service in Canada are expected to wrap up on April 28.

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