Whether the Conservative government actually considered pulling funding from Community Access Plan is up for debate, but there can be little doubt where there’s smoke there’s fire when it comes to their intentions.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Industry Canada was sendling letters to community organizations telling them that CAP sites within 25 kilometres of a public library would lose their funding.
The net it cast was a huge one with schools, youth drop-in centres and community halls all being told they would either have to cut a service many rely on or be forced to fund it themselves.
Considering the public response, it didn’t take federal Industry Minister Tony Clement long to reassure people that it will be business as usual for those institutions that have had Internet funding. If the CAP program can’t provide funding, the minister assured those groups money would come from a newer strategy aimed at expanding broadband services in rural Canada.
When the Liberal government rolled out the CAP program in 1994 it wasn’t meant to be permanent. It was intended to connect rural communities to the Web hoping that once Internet service was expanded to more households, the reliance on government funding could be scaled back.
The fact is, government probably never realized how reliant communities and people have become on those CAP sites and it was probably caught off-guard when there was a groundswell of opposition to the suggestion the funding might be cut.
Funding for CAP sites would have been cut had nothing been said because it’s likely the suggestion was a trial balloon floated by Industry Canada to gauge public reaction.
Now that the public has responded in support of these sites, it’s up to government to find a way to not only maintain them but to also enhance them so rural communities from one end of this country to the other can stay connected to the World Wide Web.