Why Atlantic Canada Governments Got It Right With Broadband

Atlantic Canada. We nestle up to the edge of one of the most turbulent and unforgiving oceans in the world – the atlantic. Compared to central Canada our total population of 2.6 Million is less than the city of Toronto. Yet we are a proud people, facing not just climatic challenges, but business challenges to export, encourage immigration and find skilled workers. In late 2007 and 2008, (New Brunswick started in 2005), the provincial governments realized that rural communities, suffering from outward migration and loss of youth, faced the challenge of competing globally in the information age as even harder than urban areas.

So we saw New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland Labrador take measures to deliver broadband (high-speed) Internet access to rural areas. Their programs to do so are more aggressive and better planned than our close friends in the Northeastern U.S. It may also become one of the most important infrastructure undertakings these governments have made.
Today, all urban areas of developed nations have ample broadband access for citizens and businesses. The result has been more active engagement of businesses, academia and the general public. Access to information is vital in a knowledge economy.
In the past, Atlantic Canada was a rich and vibrant economy. This was due to shipbuilding in the days of wooden hulls, vast and rich fish stocks and some minerals for mining. Their position close to New York, Boston and Maine with a good stopover on the way to Europe and Britain gave them the added bonus.
Today we no longer use wooden hulls, the forests aren’t as good as they once were and the fish are all but gone. The world is more connected and the North American economy is moving from a manufacturing base to a knowledge economy.
By bringing broadband to rural communities, governments are giving them access to the rest of the connected world. With the advent of Web 2.0 and the ability to better converse and build relationships for exporting, these communities now have a fighting chance. Coupled with marketing initiatives like the Pomegranate Phone (despite controversy locally) help showcase that we’ve grasped what it will take to engage the world.
Given the tenacity and survival traits of Atlantic Canadians and some of the innovations taking place here, I suspect we’ll see some interesting tales of success from rural areas in the years to come…and more inward migration to these areas.

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