BERWICK – Under the leadership of town council, the municipality completed the development of a strategic plan in early 2020. This plan was designed to reflect the input of all participating stakeholders, including the community which we serve as elected officials. The strategic plan identified key priorities, objectives, and supports consistency in the municipal decision-making process. The requirement in establishing reliable high-speed internet was identified as a priority for the community. The deficiencies in current service levels were identified as a hinderance to advancing community growth.

The COVID-19 health crisis has enhanced, and exposed, these service shortcomings. The situation has brought clear focus on the fallibility of the current infrastructure capabilities in rural internet connectivity. Dependable and reliable internet services are an expectation, and not a luxury, for all communities. COVID-19 has provided clear evidence that the lack of internet service has a significant, and negative, impact on our municipality. The health crisis has created an environment in which many individuals are expected to work remotely, and children must complete academic tasks from home. A significant portion of our households have limited or no high-speed service.

The mayor and council, recognize there must be long-term and short-term, actions to resolve internet deficiencies for the health and safety of constituents.

Local industry stakeholders are introducing new measures to respond to this community issue now. Xplornet and Roxborough Telephone Co. Ltd. are introducing new technology to provide immediate, short-term solutions to respond to service discrepancies.

Xplornet is currently erecting a new tower that utilizes upgraded wireless equipment to provide services at 50 megabits per second. This network enhancement is part of Xplornet’s plan to provide expanded, fast and affordable internet services to rural residents.

This year, Roxborough Telephone Co. Ltd./Ontarioe–ast is introducing fibre to all homes within its service area. This upgraded service will offer up to gigabit speeds to available North Stormont residents. This project, currently underway, will add much needed coverage to underserved areas. The company also has future plans to expand this coverage availability to Monkland and Avonmore.

Long-term, the township supports the efforts of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) and its vision of a broadband project which will be capable of delivering highspeed internet services of up to 1 gigibit to the majority of Eastern Ontario residences.

These strong industry responses are expected to provide relief to area businesses and residents and will promote and allow the community to work remotely, assist student participation in online classes and allow family and friends to stay connected during the pandemic. As both a resident, and mayor, I applaud and endorse such direct efforts.