By Chad Ingram

To say that it's been a rough month wouldbe a drastic understatement.

Mid-March seems like it was six months agothe cabin feverish effects of self-isolation are beginning to set in for manyof us and our strange new circumstance has meant the adoption of alteredroutines. For example along with my morning coffee I like to stand on thedeck and scream “Why God why have you forsaken us?!” into the crisp Aprilair.

In the past week or two most summerprogramming and events from small ones to the large hallmark festivals ofHaliburton County have been cancelled. Summertime as we know it in theHaliburton Highlands is effectively canned for this year and to deploy someadvanced vernacular that sucks big time.

However amid this deflated backdrop therewas some good news for the county earlier this week and it has nothing to dowith COVID-19 which quite frankly is super refreshing for me after writingnews about COVID-19 for a month straight.

The good news is that the Eastern OntarioRegional Network is releasing the first request for proposals for its massivecell gap project. That's the $213-million project that will see theconstruction of new communications towers throughout this region of provincewith the goal of essentially filling all existing gaps when it comes to mobilebroadband high-speed internet. According to EORN which is owned by theEastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus 40 per cent of the area it serves does nothave speeds sufficient enough to stream high-definition video and 20 per centdoes not have access to standard definition video typical mobile app use orvideo app calling. Ten per cent doesn't even have voice-calling service. Noneof these figures will come as a surprise for some residents of HaliburtonCounty where service in some areas can still be slow slim or nil.

The last month has likely underscored thecounty's poor connectivity for many residents. While many of us have beenexpected to work from home during the crisis that may be easier said than donefor some depending on their level of internet connectivity. In general thecounty's spotty connectivity hampers its economic development in terms ofbusiness attraction and reliable mobile internet is also necessary for thecommunity's safety. Then there's the convenience of being able to use moderndigital communication tools. Congratulations to anyone who had stocks inteleconferencing platform Zoom before the pandemic struck by the way.

The RFP will be on the market for fourmonths it's expected review of the submissions will take about equivalenttime and it's hoped that construction will commence in early 2021. The projectwill take three to four years to complete and while that may seem too far awayfor some remember we're talking about a project that is massive in scope andtechnical complexity and which involves multiple private and public sectorpartners including all three levels of government.

Hopefully the wait will be well worth itand the next time there's a global pandemic we'll all be better equipped towork from home.

Just kidding. I hope.