Councillor Watters reports on broadband upgrades in MM

Councillor Paul Watters

From my seat on council, looking around the table, we are unanimous in realizing how critical up to date communication infrastructure is for the social and economic development of Mississippi Mills, especially for our rural residents.

As a member of the MM2020 working group, I am pleased,  thrilled actually,  with the progress we have made over the last year, having brought broad band service to 1650  previously underserved homes in our urban and suburban communities.  By year end we will see all Almonte residents and businesses with gigabit fiber access;  service levels that are amongst the best in Canada.

I am painfully aware that our community communication on this project has been poor. The untimely death of working group member Ross Bartlett left  MM2020 with a gaping communication hole resulting in radio silence.  I am thrilled that the extremely capable Rob Riendeau of the Humm has come forward to lead us in an update to the MM2020.ca web site and help us create  a singular broadband information source for our community.

I am also pleased to report that the  results we have achieved  with the Mississippi Mills MM2020 community lead model is being looked upon with envying eyes by several neighboring municipalities and that our working group members are being called upon to provide leadership to other communities wishing to follow our model.

For 2018, MM2020 is focused on  the community of Clayton. MM2020 identified Clayton as the most desperate situation in Mississippi Mills due to unreliable internet falling below the CRTC minimum, no access to cellular or mobile data service, home phone service in decline due to aging infrastructure and no level of government or service provider having plans for improved service in the Clayton area.

As the Clayton  area municipal representative, I started writing letters in 2013 explaining the poor cell coverage around the Clayton area. We met with the County of Lanark, fire chiefs, EOWC,EORN and a packed house at the Clayton Community Centre and came to understand how desperate the situation is from a public safety perspective.  Because of this, MM2020 is undertaking to improve both cellular and broadband service for the Clayton community.

Clayton residents Clem Pelot and Deanna Barry realized that the Clayton situation will only improve through community leadership and active community involvement. Clem and Deanna are organizing a unified buying group representing the majority of Clayton  residents to explore  options for improved service. Information about their Clayton MM2020  project is available  at the Clayton General Store or by visiting www.claytonontario.ca . Thanks to their inclusive work, Lanark Highlands residents around Clayton and Taylor  Lakes will  also benefit.

The Clayton strategy is modeled on the village of Appleton’s success last year where the Appleton Community Association lead by resident businessman David Thomson formed a buying group, created a competitive bid system and formed a community capital fund to  secure fiber to the home service for the village from a tier one carrier.  A shout out to Appleton residents, the Appleton Community Association, door to door volunteers Rob Certien and Rick Soudant,  and MM2020 volunteers on a job well done!  I would also like to thank the Appleton Community Association for enthusiastically sharing their experience with other Mississippi Mills communities wishing  to replicate their success.

I would like to address a concern brought forward by Clayton resident John Hopkinson regarding broadband network deployment and its impact on 911 service.  I wish to emphasize that the conventional Bell wire line network and 911 services are unaffected by the MM2020 project.

In closing, I want to say that I am amazed and impressed by the work done by our community volunteers and the thousands of unaccounted hours collectively devoted toward community good. MM2020 is just one example of our giving spirit that sees medical patients driven, seniors bused, youth mentored, committees committed, parks rejuvenated, pathways built, gardens tended, litter picked, care given and the host of other selfless volunteer contributions  that make this community our community.  Time invested, not spent.