Billings to lobby for improved broadband service

KAGAWONG—Billings Township council wants to see broadband infrastructure and services in the community improved and will be lobbying provincial ministers on this issue.

At a meeting last week, Billings councillor Barb Erskine explained, “three of us (council) are scheduled to attend the annual ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association) conference in January which follows the same format as AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) with cabinet ministers and politicians in attendance. At these meetings council members can request meetings with the ministers and advocate for something in the community. One item I think we should be raising at the conference with the provincial ministers is concerning broadband infrastructure in the community.”

Councillor Erskine said the broadband service in the community is very slow. “And there is a great divide with the services provided in urban and rural centres throughout the province. And we, in our community, have basic service no matter who the server is.”

“I think we should be advocating for improved broadband services,” said Councillor Erskine. She pointed out the minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (Jeff Leal) and Bob Chiarelli Minister of Infrastructure are slated to be in attendance at the ROMA conference. She also noted an example of an area with good broadband service is Grey County, part of the southwestern Ontario integrated fibre system, which takes in about 150 communities.

“They (Grey County) have fibre optics; we don’t have this across the township,” stated Councillor Erskine. “There is even a divide in our township on the services being provided. This is not beneficial for trying to bring new businesses in town, or even for families whose kids are trying to do their homework. I’d like to put this out there (requesting meeting with provincial ministers at ROMA to look at improving services in the community).”

“It certainly wouldn’t harm our cause, by trying to have a meeting with one or more of the ministers at ROMA,” said Billings Mayor Austin Hunt.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Councillor Brian Parker.

“I think broadband services are very important,” added Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. “This is definitely something that needs to be improved on,” prior to council passing a motion asking for a meeting to be held at ROMA.

Mayor Hunt said the township can request having a meeting with one or more of the ministers (at ROMA) on their concerns and advocating for broadband and services. After they make the request they will then be informed if other municipalities in Ontario are advocating on the same issue, and if this is the case they can work in partnership in lobbying the government.