Building better broadband isn’t enough

Ontario’s commitment of nearly $4B to connect every region in the province to high-speed internet by the end of 2025 is laudable and ambitious. But it doesn’t go far enough.

The provincial government estimates that there are 700,000 unserved or underserved homes in the province, and its new program aims to “leverage existing utility infrastructure and rights of way to reduce required subsidies and compress delivery timelines”.

According to the press release,

Ontario is now one of the few jurisdictions in Canada with its own comprehensive and proactive plan to achieve full connectivity. Over the coming weeks, the Province plans on announcing more projects to bring connectivity to communities throughout the province, along with additional details on how it will help ensure every region in Ontario has access to high-speed internet.

Ontario Connects: Ontario’s high-speed internet plan, is part of Infrastructure Ontario. Of course, building internet connections is an infrastructure project, but as I have written recently, construction of broadband access only addresses the “easy” part of the connectivity equation.

Universal access can be achieved by throwing money at solving the challenges of construction. Expressed in syllogistic logic terms, it is a necessary, but insufficient condition for universal connectivity.

Universal broadband adoption is a lot tougher. As we have learned (see “The broadband divide’s little secret”), it isn’t just a matter of lower prices. And as we have seen with the city of Toronto’s approach to Connect TO, some people confuse the issues, likely because building broadband is a much easier problem to define and solve. It is so much harder to understand the human factors that inhibit universal adoption of information and communications technology.

But doesn’t that mean it is a challenge toward which we need to be turning our attention?

It isn’t enough to build universal access to better broadband. We need to do more to understand the factors keeping us from universal adoption.

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