Present: Jeff Johnston, USCO; Carol Armstrong, McMurrich/Monteith; Jessica Busch, WORC; Lance Thrale, Kearney; Dave Stewart, Almaguin Highlands Inc.; Les Rowley, Perry; Dave Gray, CDO Burk’s Falls/Armour/Ryerson; Roy Williamson, Kearney; Paul Ziraldo, Kearney; Rosalind Hall, Ryerson; Jeff Buell, Blue Sky Net; Susan Church, Blue Sky Net.
All in favour.
Business Arising (AHED Business):
Thank you to the Town of Kearney for hosting this month’s AHED meeting.
Jeff Buell and Susan Church from Blue Sky Net join us this month to discuss wifi and broadband in the region. Both expressed appreciation at being invited to share some updates with the group. Blue Sky Net is a not-for-profit organization in existence since 2003. Blue Sky Net is trying to bridge the divide between technology and users by building infrastructure and expanding broadband access across the region. They work with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and currently, 20 municipalities are up and running. Blue Sky Net also facilitates the BEAM program which allows local businesses to access funding for web development. Blue Sky Net focuses on technology development and they are funded by FedNor for their basic operations covering a region that encompasses 60 communities and 313,000 people in 156,000 households. Typically, underserved areas share some of the same qualities: a lower population, dispersed over a large, geographically large area with few larger commercial enterprises. It is challenging for the private sector to improve existing infrastructure so this is where Blue Sky Net comes in to partner with stakeholders, seek out funding opportunities to improve the Return on Investment (ROI). Blue Sky Net has leveraged over 36.8 million dollars in funding over the years to expand the internet and its capacity to underserved communities in Northern Ontario. In 2004, approximately 65% of residents in Northern Ontario had access to high speed internet – today that number has grown to 88%. Blue Sky Net identifies areas with little/no access broadband services, estimates the cost and impact of improving infrastructure and then applies for funding to offset the capital costs of the project. Another key component of Blue Sky Net is the Broadband and Associated Infrastructure Mapping and Analysis Project (BAIMAP) which is a comprehensive database of all relevant broadband information with a GIS interface – this project improves the accuracy of coverage estimates, establishes priorities and supports funding requests to address gaps in coverage, this tool is used to develop projects.
Blue Sky Net’s recent focus has been to improve the performance of existing, outdated networks. With usage growth and the increase in streaming media, there are some major challenges to network operators in ensuring their networks performance. The demand from users for speed and capacity often outstrip the network’s abilities. Jeff explained the 6 types of common platforms used to deliver broadband service, they are not all equal, they all have pros and cons:
There were discussions around the table about the abuse of open wifi or “hot spots” and how to avoid potential misuse of these systems. Jeff and Susan made some suggestions including limiting the scope of the connection to avoid use in parking lots and allow monitoring, or passwords/login codes that expire with time limits or data limits. The goal of the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is to have everyone at a minimum of 5mbps speed by 2017.
The group thanked Jeff and Susan for their very interesting and informative presentation.
Roy Williamson/from Kearney
Roy found the presentation very informative and expressed the importance of having broadband access in the area.
Dave Gray/CDO Burk’s Falls, Armour, Ryerson
The FAB 2015 Trade Show is happening this weekend in Burk’s Falls – the event is a family oriented day with live entertainment, vendors, art demonstrations, workshops, a magician and much more. There will be a shuttle bus running people from South River and Sundridge to Burk’s Falls. Dave also brought a sample of the cover page of the new 2015 Almaguin Highlands Visitor Guide – the guide will be out in 3 or 4 weeks in print. This is the second year for the publication.
Jessica discussed a few upcoming event for WORC. The next Almaguin Women’s Resource & Business Network is taking place on Wednesday May 27th at Tanner’s Inn in Magnetawan from 11:30 to 1:30 with Michelle Gleason from Contact North presenting. WORC is currently in the process of applying for an Intern from FedNor. The new Life Skills program will be launching this fall and will run in the same fashion as the current Entrepreneurial Skills Training does – 10 weekly, 2-hour sessions, free with possible reimbursement for mileage and childcare. The Women’s Own Resource Centre’s Annual General Meeting is coming up as well – June 17th at 7:00 p.m., advertising will be out in the next week with a location announced.
Les Rowley/Perry Township
Les reported that the scheduled meeting on May 14th for the Huntsville Hospital was rescheduled to May 27th. Les also discussed that the AHIC website is being taken over by Explorer’s Edge – a resolution was passed at council on May 20th. There will be a BBQ on May 25th and an early showing of the TVO Broadcasting of the park being built in Emsdale, the BBQ will start at 5:30 followed by the showing at 6:30. The show will air on Tuesday May 26th on TVO.
Rosalind Hall/Ryerson Township
Rosalind encouraged everyone to stay informed regarding the status of the Huntsville Hospital – keep spreading awareness.
Dave Stewart/Almaguin Highlands Inc.
Dave mentioned that the Almaguin Umbrella Committee met at 6pm April 30, 2015 at Ha’s Restaurant in Sundridge and affirmed it’s support of PARC and the Umbrella Project Partnership Proposal provided to Explorer’s Edge that builds on existing investments by FedNOR in online marketing of the region. Here are the Motions in detail:
Motion 1: Moved by Greg Waters (Near North Locavores/Stonemote Cottage), Seconded by David Stewart (AlmaguinHighlands.com)
Be it resolved that the committee does hereby support the partnership project proposal submitted to RTO12 by PARC Association on April 28, 2015. Passed Unanimously.
Motion 2: Moved by Bill Booth (Almaguin.com), Seconded by David Stewart (AlmaguinHighlands.com)
Be it resolved that the Almaguin Umbrella Project Committee affirm it has the resources and capabilities to accomplish the goals and outcomes set forth in the Umbrella Project strategic plan (terms of reference) and partnership project proposal provided by PARC.
Dave reported that the McMurrich/Monteith Economic Development Committee had a meeting on May 19th. They are presently putting a motion before council to reform the committee under a new name.
Park to Park has a new website and is busy working on raising capital for their infrastructure. Most of the trail monitors for the busy ATV season have been delegated and so we are looking forward to a good summer for pass sales.
The Explorer’s Edge AGM will be held on June 2nd at the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre in Gravenhurst.
Dave relayed to the group that Karen is in Ottawa, he reported that the Cottage Pain Clinic was busy servicing their customers who own units in North America.
Paul Ziraldo/Kearney Council
Paul indicated that he is attending AHED meetings because he feels strongly the importance of networking and information sharing in the Almaguin Highlands to work toward common goals. Paul also commented that the presentation on broadband was excellent.
Lance Thrale/Kearney Mayor
Lance discussed the Regatta being planned for this summer in Kearney, there is an upcoming presentation with the MP and MPP for the announcement of the new bandshell that was funded for the town. There is a new business opening up where the Iron Skillet used to be – a Bed & Breakfast and Pub. Council is currently working on a plan to share services with neighbouring municipalities.
Carol Armstrong/McMurrich Monteith
Carol discussed the Sprucedale Spectacular which has been renamed as the Sprucedale Family Festival and is taking place on August 15th. New to the event this year is the market, they are currently looking for vendors, please contact Carol for more information. The Recreation Committee met and discussed the possibility of upgrading the playground, they have some great plans however they need funding and are currently exploring options. The Economic Development Committee has a new name – NETWORC – Carol will share the meaning at the next AHED meeting.
Jeff reported on the Kearney Seniors Club meetings – the OPP was in last month to discuss elder abuse, this month Stephen Darling will be in to discuss Insurance and next month the OPP will be returning to continue the discussion on elder abuse in it’s many forms. Jeff also discussed the USCO Zone 39 Fall Festival which will be taking place on September 18th in Sprucedale. The event will include a market, exhibits, raffles and more – admission is $5 and includes dinner.
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