Muskoka is renowned for its get-away-from-it-all, laid-back lifestyle. You’re never far from a river paddle, a woodland walk, a snowshoe trek … it is a natural all-season paradise! But take a deeper look. Its lakes, trees, and rocks actually make a superb backdrop to the sophisticated technology that lets you have your cake and eat it too. You can disconnect from stress, reconnect with nature … and connect to the digital age in modern-day Muskoka!
The Power of Fibre Optics
People may not be aware that what is often dubbed ‘cottage country’ is also home to impressive high-speed connectivity: a factor that is revolutionizing Muskoka’s economy and investment opportunities. Reliable, fast internet access is not just a convenience: it has claimed its place as a fundamental necessity for businesses and citizens. And it is vital to ensure that rural communities are just as well positioned as their urban counterparts to take advantage of its opportunities.
Lakeland Energy in Muskoka is the first internet service provider in all of Ontario to offer a speed of 1-Gigabit internet through its 100% fibre-optic network. The glass optical ‘fibre’ tubes transfer data literally hundreds of times faster than the standard copper wires used in regular broadband connections. “Our 1-Gig speed is incredibly fast,” explained Ian Cameron, Representative at Lakeland. “We offer up to 20 times the speed of other providers through their copper lines.”
Ian outlined the evolution of its fibre network. Over a decade ago, in response to the communication needs among its sister power companies, Lakeland started rolling out fibre to the sub-stations. Its reach was then expanded to government organizations and to businesses, and, most recently, to residential areas.
In July 2015, Lakeland was granted supportive funding through the Small Communities Fund (SCF), which assisted in the build costs for laying the infrastructure to extend high-speed internet to rural residential areas. The SCF partnership program among Lakeland and the federal and provincial governments is designed to ensure that every community can benefit from the economic advantages of competitive internet capacity. “We’ve also submitted an application for major funding through the federal ‘Connect to Innovate’ program to continue our expansion,” said Ian.
Business owners want reliable internet, great upload and download speeds, unlimited bandwidth, and good customer support. And Muskoka’s entrepreneurs need to compete on a level playing field with companies in large urban centres. Access to hyper internet speed allows any type of business to create efficiencies with faster transactions, but Lakeland’s symmetric upload and download speeds are a particular boon to graphic designers, surveyors, or videographers. “Many internet service providers limit upload speeds to save traffic,” Ian said, “but, with our network, large files will never be a challenge.”
Making the Difference
Here are just three of the businesses that are living testament to the viability of working in Muskoka and connecting with all of its perks – including fibre optics. The door to opportunity is open: why not step over the threshold into a great new lifestyle!
Royal LePage – Realty
Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka Realty is a community-minded brokerage with a well-earned reputation for innovative thinking. Broker of Record, John O’Rourke, purchased offices throughout Muskoka in 1996. He understood the importance of national and global networking in a region that is a worldwide destination, and so fibre-optic connectivity was a natural choice. “Originally, the promise of faster internet speeds was enough to make us switch to fibre,” John explained. “But I didn’t have the expertise or the knowledge at the time to foresee all the other tangible benefits in having access to world-class speed and bandwidth.” Because of fibre, many cloud-based services have replaced aging software and hardware. They no longer need a dedicated server room, or to run 24/7 air conditioning. The markedly increased upload speeds facilitate inter-office backups that provide a robust data back-up and retrieval. Documents can be scanned, stored, and retrieved in a secure, convenient and compliant system. “Furthermore, we can leverage the improved latency to offload our telecommunications on to our broadband access,” said John. “We are now able to provide our agents with a feature-rich telecommunication system while reducing costs.”
Coote Hiley Jemmett – Land Surveyors
A long-established Muskoka firm, Coote Hiley Jemmett provides professional surveying services to residents, cottagers, municipalities, and commercial clients. Doug Jemmett described how the transition to fibre optics optimized their business. “When we built our new office six years ago,” he said, “we were told that high-speed internet was available through Bell.” However, they soon discovered that the service was inadequate for their needs, and it became highly frustrating. Software updates took at least 15 minutes to download; online drawings couldn’t be accessed quickly; and the connection was spotty and slow. After discussions with Lakeland, they made the decision to bring the fibre right into their building. It made a huge difference right away: downloads and uploads are instantaneous; there is no cap on the data; and sending large files is no problem at all. And Doug points to another kind of connection, too. “We rarely have any issues,” he said, “but I really appreciate the fact that if you have to make a call, you get a real person – someone who lives in our community. This is one of the benefits of being connected with a locally owned company.”
Bullet Digital – Video Technology
Entrepreneur Rob Engman, founder of one of Muskoka’s pre-eminent craft breweries, also owns Bullet Digital, a business that is totally dependent upon high-speed connectivity to keep pace with the progress of technology. “We started as a production company close to 30 years ago,” said Rob, “then expanded into broadcast camera rentals, audio and visual post-production, and special effects.” For the past two decades, Bullet Digital has focused on servicing the in-flight entertainment needs for Air Canada, evolving from the old Hi8 tapes to today’s digital seat-back systems. “We get a lot of programming from distributors and studios electronically, and then we do the encoding here in Muskoka,” Rob explained. “With the large files that we send to California and major Canadian cities, fibre is a necessity.” In 2014, Rob closed his administrative and production offices in Toronto and moved them to Muskoka, motivated by the promise of 1-Gigabit speed with unlimited bandwidth. “Lakeland was very smart to provide symmetric speeds, and the service is head-and-shoulders above what we had in Toronto,” Rob observed. “If more companies knew about it, Muskoka’s lifestyle would make it a very attractive move.”