Analysis of the urban/rural broadband divide in Canada: Using GIS in planning terrestrial wireless deployment

Sawada, M.; Cossette, Daniel; Wellar, Barry; Kurt, Tolga
July 2006
Government Information Quarterly;2006, Vol. 23 Issue 3/4, p454
Academic Journal
Abstract: Millions of Canadians residing in Canada''s northern, isolated, rural, and remote communities do not have broadband Internet access. This situation has led to a national �broadband divide.� That is, the deployment of wireline broadband is very limited in Canada''s northern, isolated, rural, and remote areas because of the significant expense of installation and maintenance of the wired infrastructure needed to reach dwellings in these locations. Terrestrial broadband wireless technology, on the other hand, does not entail the same kind of physical infrastructure. As a result, there are dramatic changes in how spatial considerations affect the provision of broadband Internet services (BIS) to areas beyond the urban zone. In particular, the spatial question is now focused on assessing the capacity for different technological solutions to reach profitable population bases, and brings to the forefront organizations that are developing non-line-of-sight (NLOS) technologies that would permit wireless Internet access over much greater distances than current solutions. We begin this paper by establishing the importance of broadband connectivity to Canada''s northern, isolated, rural, and remote communities. This discussion comments on the role of the Government of Canada in the provision of broadband connectivity to residents of these communities, and outlines the current regulatory issues that govern wireless services and policy formulation. The second part of the paper illustrates the use of geographic information system (GIS) approaches in the study of wireless broadband planning and deployment. Case study findings suggest that GIS applications can make a significant contribution to the analysis of wireless deployment planning, to the understanding of the relationships between wireless signal sources and consumers, and to the spatial configuration of terrestrial wireless broadband networks. We conclude the paper by discussing how the GIS approach employed could be used to inform the public policy process with regard to increasing access to broadband Internet services in all regions of the country, and thereby providing the opportunity for all Canadians, regardless of location, to fully participate in the Information Society.


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