With the federal government having ended Community Access Program (CAP) funding effective March 31 this year, it will ultimately be the rural areas that feel the sting.
Local libraries, for instance, rely on CAP funding on a regular basis to provide the public access to Internet and technology services they may not otherwise have access to. The Westlock Intermunicipal Library Board was able use the funding to purchase three desktop computers for the Jarvie Public Library last year, with updated programs to give community members access to current information.
Within three to five years those computers will be outdated and new ones will need to be purchased to replace them, and without CAP funding that cost will be thrust onto the library’s member municipalities.
It is a relatively small expense, but these computers are a valuable resource for community members — whether it is to search for that next job, or find information for a book report.
Strip that funding away and these smaller libraries will have to begin looking for money from other sources or even cut their budgets.
With a federal deficit on the books this year, certainly cutting the CAP funding will help the country get back in the black. But at what cost?
The program was started in 1995 with the intention of connection Canadians to the Internet, and although the goal has been met for the most part, without the ongoing support it is not inconceivable that some communities will see their connectivity reduced.
We should be looking at Internet access as an ongoing priority and consequently an ongoing expense. The same way the government provides assistance with other ongoing expenses to municipalities, schools, and other organizations, it should put a renewed focus on providing all Canadians, regardless of location, ongoing access to on-line services.
The world has changed a lot in the past 10 years, and so much of our lives are now spent on-line — to access education, government services or simply to keep in touch with our friends and loved ones.
Funding of the type provided through CAP should be seen more as an operating expenses than a capital cost.
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