Connecting to Opportunity – Local Leaders come together to plan for the future

Colleen Sklar is the volunteer chairwoman for the Gaynor Family Regional Library in Selkirk, MB. Her youngest daughter was 12 months old when planning started on the library, and she recently turned 13 years old. 140204 - Thursday, February 20, 2014 - (MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Finding ways to work together, increase connectivity to communities while maximizing the use of tax dollars is on the agenda for many local governments across the globe. Improving access to high speed Internet is critical to increasing our competitiveness. Initiatives such as these are not only economic drivers, they also improve quality of life in our communities by supporting recreation access and academic support for students.

Local leaders in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region(WMR) are in step with other regions around the globe, who are also supporting access to underserviced communities.

For example, in Sweden the government has invested in the development of their digital economy by investing in fiber assets. In the United Kingdom, many local councils have started to own their own fiber optic assets to increase access for communities, whereas in San Franciscoa public-private partnership was created to build a high-speed Internet network. Although each region took a slightly different approach, they all had the same goal – to offer their communities reliable high-speed Internet at an affordable rate.

Leaders in the WMR undertook a Fibre Optic Feasibility Study for the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region through the newly established JohnQ Public – an arms-length Development Corporation. The feasibility study provides information to begin to assess the direction and explore various options for partnerships, as well link existing networks to maximize the taxpayers’ investment that has already been made into fibre optic infrastructure. Having a clear starting place and a direction is an important step in achieving the objective of increasing connectivity across the entire region to residents and businesses alike.

Over the coming weeks the WMR, through JohnQ Public, will be seeking support from the Federal Government through the various funds earmarked to increase the Internet connectivity of Canadians as it relates to increasing broadband connectivity in our rural municipalities, like the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Project (ICIP). Such an investment would help the WMR maintain its competitiveness and achieve maximum value for ratepayers across the region.

With growing communities and limited options for Internet service delivery, the Mayors and Reeves show great leadership in exploring options that will help optimize productivity of business owners and enhance quality of life to residents, students who all expect and require access to high-speed Internet in order to stay connected now and for the future.