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(October 2006) -For the second time, CIPA was the subject of an article by reporter Simon Cheung, of The Telegraph Journal. Read complete article.

October 24, 2006                  N-B Telegraph-Journal
Word being spread about rural broadband
Simon Cheung

New Brunswick is almost completely blanketed with broadband access - now it's time to push the product, says the executive director of the Collectivité ingénieuse de la Péninsule acadienne Inc.

"We really have a leg up on the rest of rural Canada," said Denis Desrosiers, executive director of the company also known as the Acadian Peninsula Smart Community.

"All the heavy lifting is done. Now comes the fun part."
Indeed, Desrosiers said his company has been asked by Quebec's Gaspé region to consult on how to promote the use of technology, based on its experiences with widespread rural broadband access in New Brunswick.

The province, in partnership with Bell Aliant, completed the New Brunswick Broadband Initiative in June, connecting all of New Brunswick's health care centres, business parks and First Nations communities, as well as 95 per cent of rural business lines and 90 per cent of residences.

In 2004, only 25.5 per cent of rural members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business were using broadband Internet connections, according to the federation's data, while 61.6 per cent of urban members had high-speed connections. A recent preliminary study done by the New Brunswick Universities Broadband Research Consortium revealed that public organizations and businesses in rural communities are just now beginning to embrace the technology, which in many cases has only recently been made available.

The executive summary of the report notes that there are "many examples of new uses and activities as a result of Broadband adoption, but there are few examples of a change in behaviours and attitudes and relationships and operating norms as a result."

It adds, however that rural communities "are keen to understand how they might harness the potential of the technology to achieve long term viability and sustainability."

David Bruce, co-author of the report and director of the rural and small town program at Mount Allison University in Sackville, said access needs to be supported by funding and a buildup of expertise for broadband to flourish in rural areas.

"It's not just enough to build the pipeline and assume the various organizations and institutions that are out there can just plug in and away we go," he said.

The Collectivité ingénieuse, which participated in the province's broadband project and has promoted Internet technology in the region since the late 1990s, is now working with small-to-medium-sized businesses to find ways to incorporate broadband usage into their operations.

Desrosiers said the most convincing arguments for broadband use by companies tend to be those customized to specific business needs, delivered in face-to- face meetings with executives. Broad-based, general workshop approaches, he said, do not appeal to the same individual motivations.

"A top-down approach has never worked for us," Desrosiers said. "If you promote it as a broad tool, they'll never make the connection of what it can do on a day-to-day basis."

"We're finding out that the basic problem is that we're dealing mainly with [small and mid-sized businesses] and they're too small to have people in their staff to discern the benefits and challenges are with broadband in their companies."

It is more productive, he said, to spend an hour discussing the specific benefits and costs of broadband access as they apply to a particular company with a representative than it is to give general promotions through programs and workshops. Many companies, Desrosiers said, do not have a complete grasp of how effective broadband can be to address company issues.

"If you're not able to understand how big the problem it is, you're often going to overestimate how expensive the solution is," he said. "We've seen the same problem everywhere."

"[But] if they can find out about online stuff, they'll use it."
Desrosiers admitted that many online strategies are out of the financial reach of smaller companies and public organizations, but added that there are strategies to cope with those monetary shortcomings. He said the Collectivité ingénieuse has employed a technique in the past where it gathered funds from 10 smaller businesses with similar needs to build a single application for shared use.

Desrosiers added that as youth rise up the ranks in different companies, they bring web-culture with them, adding new knowledge on how to utilize broadband.

But in general, he said, all companies seem to embrace the technology once they hear about its possibilities.
"We've had calls from people we've never really imagined would call us," said Desrosiers, noting that law and accounting firms have called his company.

"They're coming to us."

"© 2006 The Telgraph-Journal. All rights reserved.

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