Poor rural internet and cell services obstruct communication, stall business and impede technology uptake, according to survey results KAP released April 16.
“We have heard deep-seated frustration from both farm families and non-farmers about the state of connectivity in rural Manitoba, and providers cannot continue to ask us to pay for a service that is subpar at best,” said Jill Verwey, vice-president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, in a news release.
Between Feb. 19 and March 31, KAP surveyed rural and farm families to collect data on cell and internet service in Manitoba.
KAP received 1,557 submissions across the province, it said in the news release. About half of these were from farmers.
Just under two-thirds of respondents reported being either somewhat or very dissatisfied with internet and cellular service.
Many survey comments mentioned an inability to communicate during emergencies, speak to farm employees, and participate fully in business operations, KAP said. Additional costs for signal boosters, which only worked sporadically, were also mentioned.
Over half of respondents said internet service was disrupted at least daily, if not multiple times per day. About two-thirds said they see interruptions to cell service at least once a day, if not more than once.
Some farmers mentioned the impact of service disruptions on participating in online auctions, retrieving field data, accessing market information, and monitoring calving cameras.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, internet service has become particularly important for school and business.
“With thousands of Manitobans stuck in their homes and relying on internet connections to accomplish important tasks like educating their children, we are all aware that present service levels are unacceptable with daily disruptions,” said Verwey.
“The best time to fix these gaps was five years ago, the second-best time is now.”
KAP said it intends to share a full report on the survey with provincial and federal governments, and major service providers, later this year.