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5 Things to Know for Getting Rural Internet in Ontario

This morning you might have streamed a favourite show on Netflix while having my coffee.

At the same time, your phone is downloading episodes of Friends for later viewing. A roommate, meanwhile, could be downloading a 20GB file for a presentation on her laptop while catching up with her friends overseas on Skype at the same time.

If you're one of Canada's many urbanites, then there's a good chance that your morning routine is similar.

Living in urban areas, it's easy to take access to high-speed internet for granted but the same cannot be said for rural internet in Ontario.

According to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), while 100% of Canadians in urban areas have access to broadband internet, only 85% of those in rural areas can enjoy the same access.

Read on to learn more about why rural communities are being left in the dark and how you can get connected if you live in one of these rural areas in Ontario.

1. Urban versus Rural: The Current Situation

Residents of Canada have long been plagued by the dominant players in Canada's telecommunications industry.

For those living in Canada's major cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, there are more options to choose from when selecting your Internet Service Provider. In densely populated areas, major companies like Bell, Rogers and Telus battle for consumers. As part of that battle, they offer a range of services at different costs including fibre, DSL or cable connections.

Consumers in these regions not only expect companies to compete for their attention but also expect a high standard of service at an affordable rate.

2. Why Rural Internet in Ontario Is Stuck in the Past

However, the same is not true once you move out of those areas. Even an hour outside Ottawa city limits, broadband coverage drops off drastically much to the frustration of residents and business owners in these blackout zones.

Due to the duopoly found in many markets across Canada where residents only have a choice of two internet service providers, a lack of competition means there is no incentive for these companies to improve the service they offer.

Essentially, they are not willing to build the infrastructure required for residents to have the same access to rural internet in Ontario as those who are living in urban areas. In 2014, the major players in Canada's telecommunications industry dominated by a staggering 91% share of the residential internet market.

At least for now, residents of rural Ontario will need to try other methods to get online.

3. Municipal Governments are Fighting Back

Several municipal governments across Ontario are tired of being left behind by the major telecommunications companies and are now looking to fight back.

With that idea, these local governments are offering open access to self-financed infrastructure. This means that smaller companies can join the fray as competitors in the internet service provider industry without having to shoulder the cost of building new infrastructure.

Municipal governments know that local business owners and even students depend on having a fast, stable internet connections and without access to that, are likely to consider relocating to more urban areas.

If there are a community of like-minded individuals in your town, you should think about approaching your municipal government with help from Community Broadband.

4. Internet Options Available To Rural Residents

So you need to have reliable internet access, but you're horrified by the idea of living in a bustling city. Don't worry, there are still internet options for rural internet in Ontario.

A popular option for rural customers is to get DSL internet since it uses the pre-existing phone lines. Unfortunately, DSL lines lose quality over distance meaning that your internet will be very slow if you live far from the broadband access point. On the other hand, each household has their own connection so you won't be sharing bandwidth like you would with cable internet.

If you live too far from a broadband access point or are simply in one of the blackout zones, satellite internet will be a better option for you. However, there are many drawbacks to satellite internet including slower speeds and a high set up cost.

You need to rent the satellite dish (usually on a one or two year contract) and pay to have someone come to your home and install it.

There are just a few options to consider for rural residents. It's possible that in the not-so-distant future, Google will have perfected Project Loon. This endeavor hopes to make high-speed Internet access available worldwide through the use of giant balloons.

But for now, you'll want to carefully choose between your viable options.

5. Considerations When Choosing Between Internet Options

While you are considering your internet options, here are a few things you should keep in mind.

There may be data caps on your service. A data cap is a limit to how much internet you can use during one billing period (usually one month). Depending on how you use the internet, signing up for a service with data caps may lead to very expensive internet bills.

If you plan to download or stream videos or need to access large files, you should opt for a service that does not restrict your usage with data caps.

Expect to sign a long-term contract with your internet service provider.

Obviously, be clear on all the stipulations including the grounds for terminating that contract if the service is not meeting your expectations. The benefit to signing a long-term contract is that you don't have to worry about the price increasing, however, the downside is that you're stuck if a better service is suddenly available in your neighbourhood.

Finally, research bundles that are on offer from the telecommunications companies. They all offer discounts if you use the same company for the internet, cable and your landline.