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We need more fiber for rural communities

by Jose Manuel Enriquez
Ruins of what was once the town of Flowerdale, Alberta, Canada

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Johann Reimer, a 35-year-old Canadian Military Veteran with more than 20 years in the fiber optic telecommunications industry. He is currently the director of marketing and sales at Canadian Fiber Optics, a company that funds, designs, builds, and operates fiber networks in Rural Canada. Johann is a major promoter and enthusiast of bringing fiber to each home in Canada.

In his social media posts, he tells stories of what it is like for people living out in the countryside with awfully slow or no internet. Among the stories he has heard out in rural areas, is that of a farmer who must disconnect his security cameras from the network during the day; otherwise, he would not be able to surf the internet to carry out his business. In LATAM there are still medium and small cities with no fiber connectivity, so rural areas may have nothing at all.

“Back in the early 1900s when the electrical grid of Canada was being built, there were some towns that did not want electricity and did not allow companies to build the infrastructure required in their towns. Those towns no longer exist! Towns are now typically memorialized by a large rock with a brass plate indicating what town used to sit on the quarter section of land – which is typically now just a canola or grain field.” said Johann. While I doubt that any given town would refuse to have a fiber-optic network installed these days, some local, state, and federal governments –mostly due to lack of knowledge on the subject– tend to put many roadblocks for those willing to build the “new” electrical grid; or, they lack the right legislation and norms for the deployment of such; either way, they resemble those towns that didn’t want to have electricity back in the 1900s.

A plaque that sits on the ground of the school that once stood in the town of Wauchope, Saskatchewan, Canada

Covid-19 accelerated the digital transformation, that was already underway, by at least a decade (maybe two in some countries). Big cities like NYC and San Francisco are experiencing an exodus of residents and companies –particularly those from the tech sector, but in general anyone who can work from home — to cheaper, warmer climate cities and towns or rural areas, provided they have access to high-speed broadband –the kind that only fiber can provide. At a personal level, I would love to move to a little farm out in the countryside of Mexico, but right now it is hard to find fiber even in medium-size cities. Latin America, heck, the world! needs more entrepreneurs and companies like Canadian Fiber Optic, who understand the importance of investing and connecting each community. No one in any remote town today would dare to question if it is necessary to bring electricity to their town; why would they question if fiber connectivity is important? Or necessary?

We both agreed that the key to incentivizing better policies are the younger generations; namely, the YouTubers, Gamers, and Students, who understand that symmetrical, reliable, and low latency broadband, is the new electricity; and, that the new UBERS, Googles, and Facebooks, will come from those countries, states, cities, or towns, in which everyone has access to that new utility called Broadband. Such a young generation is the one that will be the most impacted if we fail to bring connectivity to every corner of the world, so they need to step up to the plate.


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