Support sought from Island governance for broadband info

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KAGAWONG—With the support of the Manitoulin broadband committee, Blue Sky Net is issuing a request for information (RFI) to its network of internet and broadband service providers to see if they have, or are considering, infrastructure development or future projects on the Island.

“On the request for information, we are going to send out letters to service providers looking for information from them on any plans they have for Manitoulin Island,” said Susan Church, executive director of Blue Sky Net. “We  know folks have applied for projects on Manitoulin Island. We are going to ask them to let us know what infrastructure plans they are planning or have on the go for the Island, and what their future plans might be.”  

“The committee feels strongly we need to get the lay of the land, and find out what plans are being made,” said Ms. Church, noting for about two years they  put out a request for proposals for internet broadband improvements on the Island. This new initiative is asking service providers their current and future plans for the Island.

Ms. Church explained the RFI “will be sent directly to all service providers we’re aware of in Northern Ontario and beyond over the next two-three weeks.”

The informal Manitoulin broadband committee came as a result of the meeting Blue Sky Net had with the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) last year, said Ms. Church. “The end result is we’re trying to gather information for the municipalities and First Nations to move the digital yard stick and improve services on the Island.” 

Ms. Church said a second initiative the committee was in favour of “is to encourage all citizens on Manitoulin to participate in our broadband speed test and information website, on www.connectednorth.ca. We can take the information to funding agencies and show them what the internet speeds are locally, and where there limited or are gaps in service. This information tells the story of what the actual internet broadband speeds are on the Island.” 

“Our next meeting with the committee will take place once we get responses back from service providers,” said Ms. Church. “Basically, we are trying to find out who is interested in providing improved service on the Island.”

At a Billings Township council meeting last week, Todd Gordon, economic development officer for the township provided an update on the initiatives being taken by Blue Sky Net and the Manitoulin broadband committee. 

“I think it speaks for itself,” said Councillor Bryan Barker. “We all know how critical broadband is. Any requests for additional information is good.” 

Mayor Ian Anderson said, “I would encourage all our taxpayers to participate in the speed test survey, and we will be adding this to the township website.” 

On the recommendation of Mr. Gordon, council passed a resolution, “supporting the issuing of an RFI to internet service providers on behalf of the Island broadband committee.”