In ten years, Industry Canada's Community Access Program (CAP) has done wonders for internet access in towns, villages, and neighbourhoods across the country. Through the magic of leveraging, volunteers and community organizations have multiplied the government's modest investment of $340 million five times over.
To what purpose? At many of the country's 800 sites, community economic development is high on the agenda of CAP site partners. In places as diverse as Squamish, B.C., Toronto, Ontario, and Sanikiluaq on Nunavut's remote Flaherty Island, CAP sites enable people of every stripe to receive training, to research, and to promote their community. The sites employ large numbers of youth through HRSDC and CAP Youth Initiative funding programs, and some are developing commercial revenue streams as well. These sites act as hubs for partnerships between local nonprofit, for-profit, and municipal organizations.
The CAP program offers the federal government a great return on its investment and has been a model for community internet programs overseas. Why then is its budget slowly being reduced, and the allocation delayed? Why suffocate what you should celebrate?