RM of Edenwold, Vibank councils among those supporting push for better rural internet access

·3 min read

The RM of Edenwold is joining a lobbying effort for greater internet access and speeds in Saskatchewan’s rural communities.

The latest push, supported by the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities among others, calls on rural municipal councils across the province to sign a letter to federal rural economic development minister Maryam Monsef and SaskTel minister Don Morgan to demand improved internet access.

“Our rural residents are experiencing a greater need for more bandwidth than ever before,” the SARM letter reads. “Access to the internet is becoming increasingly important for our farms, our businesses, our children’s education, access to online healthcare services, and our in-home entertainment.”

SARM noted the need has grown exponentially in recent months due to COVID-19 protocols, where more children were forced to engage in online learning, and more people worked from home to ensure social distancing and isolation was maintained.

“People living in rural Saskatchewan should not be left behind as the digital world progresses,” read the letter. “Rural residents and businesses remain the foundation of the economic success of Saskatchewan and indeed Canada. Access to reliable, high-speed broadband is becoming an essential piece of infrastructure needed to continue that success, an essential service.”

The RM of Edenwold took this lobbying approach to another level, not only supporting SARM’s letter with its signature, but also drafting its own letter from council to Morgan as well.

“A lack of reliable internet has negatively affected our residents’ quality-of-life, and in these times, has isolated and harmed our community’s ability to stay connected and informed,” Reeve Mitchell Huber wrote to Morgan in the RM’s letter which was dated Jan. 26. “Though the RM of Edenwold is close to a major centre (Regina), RM residents do not have access to anywhere near the same levels of service. Some lack all access to reliable internet, while others, thought located immediately adjacent to urban areas with excellent service, cannot access high-speed internet themselves due to the inadequate infrastructure.”

Huber referenced the Park Meadows and Meadow Ridge developments as an example, and cited the difficulty those residents have in accessing education and running businesses.

“I, and the Council of the RM of Edenwold ... ask that the provincial government prioritise and invest in bringing reliable broadband internet to the province’s rural residents,” Huber wrote. “We would like to see investment increase to provide greater support and access to Saskatchewan businesses and residents. This investment will strengthen and improve existing infrastructure and provide new services to communities from across the province.”

While internet services have recently been improved just down Highway 48 in the village of Vibank, its mayor also supports the push for better internet service in rural Saskatchewan.

“You have to (speak out),” said Vibank mayor Ryan Reiss. “The way that technology is developing and how we are developing as a society, especially in rural Saskatchewan, you have to have access to the internet. It’s really hard to function without being connected that way. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and moving to virtual functions is more important than ever before. That only emphasises the need to have access to internet services wherever you are.”

Keith Borkowsky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Quad Town Forum