Research Brief: State of Rural Information and Communication Technologies in Manitoba

  • File:
  • Date:September 2016
  • Author(s):Kelly, Wayne; Scott McCollough

    An update for this report is being created to include current Internet Service Provider broadband availability data.
    – Stay tuned for the updated report.

    If you would like a copy of the original report that was previously released, please contact project lead Wayne Kelly (


    A Call to Digital Action in Rural Manitoba

    The time is now for Rural Broadband in Manitoba.

    The purpose of this report is to help create an understanding of the state of rural broadband in Manitoba, an essential first step to help the province’s rural regions participate more effectively in the digital economy and harness digital opportunities. Publicly available data on broadband access was combined with a research and policy scan to develop an overview of rural broadband in the province along with recommendations for improving that broadband. These recommendations focus on provincial level efforts and outcomes that are needed and serve as a call to digital action in rural Manitoba.

    There are enormous potential benefits from increasing rural broadband in Manitoba1. High on the list of potential benefits are:

    • Attracting and retaining population in rural communities,

    • Enabling rural economic development through increased access to online markets and business opportunities,

    • Increasing the productivity of local businesses through the adoption of digital tools such as video-conferencing/tele-working and productivity apps,

    • Providing access to online primary and post-secondary educational opportunities that would not otherwise be available to rural communities,

    • Increasing health system benefits from online health-services, which also would not otherwise be available to rural communities.

    All of these benefits are critical for the ongoing health and continued viability of rural Manitoba communities; all of these benefits require high-speed broadband services. But there is a divide between the present Manitoba rural broadband situation and the realization of potential benefits. Rural Manitoba’s current “digital divide” exists on two fronts—access and use.

    The traditional strategy is to focus only on access—increasing broadband connectivity with a “build it and they will come” approach. This strategy alone will not result in wide-scale benefits for rural Manitoba and runs the risk of increasing challenges for rural communities, and as this paper will show, access to moderate broadband (minimum 1.5Mbps) is already good throughout southern Manitoba2. Likewise, investing in broadband use is essential for increased uptake, but focusing on use alone will not enable rural Manitoba to catch up or even keep pace with the digital transformations in urban areas, neighbouring provinces, or international peers.

    To achieve this, rural Manitoba will need all of its stakeholders to act to increase digital access and use. These rural stakeholders include municipalities, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Leadership will also be required from all levels of government to embrace a culture of change to become a digital society and realize the potential benefits that exist for rural Manitoba. A wide range options for action exist for all parties in pursuing the opportunities of broadband internet access and use.