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How Remote is Remote?
By: Erika Lavers, Grade 11, Roncalli Central High, Port Saunders, NF

As a recent article in the “Ottawa Citizen” states in it’s headline There’s a Reason They Call it ‘Remote’. Urban officials, and urban citizens agree that remote centers of Canada are entitled to the privilege of high speed Internet access. These groups believe that taxes will have to be raised across Canada to pay for this technology to go through to rural centers. This increased tax rate will add to the significant contributions that the urban centers already make to the rural centers.

In other words what they are trying to tell us in their subtle way, is that we, the rural centers of Canada, really don’t have the need or should not be allowed to get the same access to high speed Internet access as urban centers. Steve Dotto, of Dotto’s Data Café and Dotto on Data, says, “I am in total disagreement with this article, the Internet is no longer a privilege or a luxury, but instead a necessity.” Don Tulk a technology teacher at Roncalli Central High School in Port Saunders says, “I’d like for them to come see just how remote we are. It’s amazing that some of the most advanced technological schools are in ‘remote’ rural Canada.”

The article is quick to mention the problems often faced in rural Canada, such as substance abuse, high unemployment, low education achievement, poor housing and inadequate sewage and water treatment facilities. They ask the question of the Broadband Task Force, do they really expect to solve these problems with broadband access? When did alcohol and substance abuse become just a rural problem? It seems to be wider spread in urban centers, yet many urban centers already have broadband access and most others can expect it soon. High unemployment? That can quickly diminish with the creation of IT jobs through high speed Internet access, online conferencing, and resources which can help run an efficient business. Low education achievement can be changed with distance learning programs as well as easier access to resources that can help them learn. As for inadequate housing, it is a follow up of the previous problems, solving the problem of unemployment and low education can help to provide for those who are affected.

Broadband Internet access is not in place in much of Newfoundland today, yet the technology here is amazing. Who’s to say we don’t “deserve” high speed Internet access? In the past year, Newfoundland schools have won three national awards, all of these schools are located in rural Newfoundland. H.L. Strong Academy in Little Bay Islands, one of Newfoundland’s most remote communities, won a national award for reading over 10,000 books within a specified time period. Laval High School, Placentia was awarded first place in the SchoolNet Communities@ca competition. Two students at Roncalli Central High School in Port Saunders, placed first and third in a national student journalism award competition. As well, Jackman All-Grade School in Trout River has been a key player in Lego Dacto and has been chosen to test the new two-way satellite Internet access being installed. These are just a few schools, and remember the awards mentioned were national awards, meaning that many urban schools entered as well.

Many schools in rural Newfoundland as well as in small communities across Canada have invested in video editing equipment, such as the new Matrox system. Many have begun to cover live events, broadcast live television shows, and many have become major players in SchoolNet Grass Roots projects where students share information worldwide. None of the schools mentioned previously have high speed Internet access or large amounts of technological equipment, yet they are doing incredible things. Just imagine what we could do with this new technology, with new high speed Internet access. What differences could rural students make to this vast global community in which we live?

Will Broadband Internet access solve all of rural Canada’s problems. Probably not, but it won’t hurt.

As the world progresses into a more technologically advanced society, if rural centers are not moving up with the urban centers, it may cause more damage than we care to imagine. Although I’m sure some urban centers would not admit it, but rural centers have much to do with the success and life of Canadian urban centers. The Broadband Taskforce is right when they say that no one group deserves this new technology more than the other. I believe that our case is proven, rural areas are on top of technology as well as many urban centers. We deserve the newest technology just like every other town, community and city all across Canada.

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