The infrastructure that keeps our internet running has always been vital. We knew that long before 2020.
But this past year shone a giant spotlight on just how essential it is to all parts of our lives, from e-learning to remote work and online shopping. Even our leisure shifted dramatically online, as Zoom parties and virtual board games kept our social lives alive from a distance.
The pandemic won’t last forever, but some of the changes it has brought look like they’re here to stay.
That’s why I was so excited to have representatives from the big three telcos join me on episode 5 of the Tech Talks Podcast to talk about how their companies responded, connectivity and where our internet is heading. Troy Harnish, Senior Director, Atlantic Region for Rogers for Business; Kevin Fournier, Director of Sales for N.S. and P.E.I., Bell Aliant; and Ken Power, Regional Director of TELUS Business, shared so many insights into how the pandemic is driving advancements in internet infrastructure and tech job opportunities in Atlantic Canada.
The telcos are on the front line of this transition. When the pandemic hit, they faced new demands and challenges from clients, including requests for new 1-800 numbers and better broadband. Meanwhile, they were also transitioning to shuttered stores and remote work. Even as they grappled with the challenges in their workforces, all of these companies were adding new infrastructure and capacity to expand wireless to rural areas and prepare for the coming of 5G, the latest mobile technology.
Now, more than six months later, we’ve had time to take stock. Even companies that were digitally averse before the outbreak have had to confront issues such as data storage, communication, digital tools, and technology’s role in their business development moving forward. Of course, it’s not just businesses that are adjusting to an increasingly digital world. Domestic customers have increased demands, too, as the whole family is online for work, school or fun.
In short, we’ve all had a significant reckoning with how digital our lives have become. Ken, Kevin, Troy and I talked about broadband as an essential service that all Canadians have the right to connectivity. As we enter an era of digital transformation, we discussed the need to narrow the digital divide between those with internet access and those without it. The urgency is there.
I'm a firm believer that it takes a village for us to all rise, so I was heartened by the spirit of collaboration in our conversation. These companies compete for business, but they share the goal–indeed, the responsibility–of reliable high-speed internet for all. They are working together and with other telecom partners, government and the private sector to increase broadband, enhance our cellular networks and invest in new technology like 5G.
And for all of us, we see more clearly the need to be “digitally determined,” as one of our guests said, as digital transformation occurs at lightning speed. This means being open to and intentional with technology. It means being creative with how we use it to adapt and grow.
While COVID necessitated a quick, in-the-moment response, these companies also have a clear eye on future trends and needs. They are not just reacting to today’s demands but planning for an increasingly internet-reliant future.
In all the pandemic pain and strife, there are things to celebrate, including the opportunities it has created for our region. My guests talked about the explosion in cybersecurity roles (more on that coming soon!), as well as lots of postings for engineers, security specialists, networking experts, and more. For recent grads, there’s a robust tech job market waiting for them.
Our value proposition in Atlantic Canada is stronger than ever. Our incredible quality of life pairs perfectly with remote or hybrid ways of working and living that were rare just six months ago. Now, with the right tools–including top-notch internet and excellent infrastructure–they’re the norm.
To listen to our conversation, click here to listen.
Here’s a peek at some of the highlights from this episode:
[7:21]: Kevin chats about some of the positive elements that have come from the pandemic, such as the relationship-building opportunities of video technology and accelerated process improvements.
[14:11]: Troy talks about how people are thinking differently since COVID-19 and how previously reluctant adopters are now seeing the value and the need to adopt more technology.
[20:33]: Cathy turns the conversation to digital transformation and the digital divide.
[22:27]: Ken on how the three big telcos, government and the private sector need to work together to provide adequate internet connectivity across our region, including in rural areas that might not have proper access.
[33:00]: We talked about spectrum auctions, what they are, and how they relate to bandwidth capacity and connectivity to Canadians.
[33:17:] We dig into the implications for the jobs market and the kinds of digital skill sets that are in demand, including cybersecurity.
INTERNET TERMS: A PRIMER
5G The latest mobile internet connection offers more capacity and faster speeds.
Broadband A high-speed internet service delivered via radio signals, satellite, phone lines, optical fibre, and cable.
Digital Divide The difference between people who have reliable internet access and those who don’t. The internet is an essential service, and those without access are at risk of being left behind socially and economically.
Digitally Determined This describes organizations with a clear strategy around digital transformation.
Spectrum Auction A process where the government sells the rights to transmit signals over the public airwaves.
DON’T MISS AN EPISODE.
Do you subscribe to the Tech Talks With Cathy Simpson podcast? If not, please do. Every week, my guests and I will be covering lots of different topics around innovation, technology and the future. Click here to listen and subscribe in iTunes. You'll find us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, PodLink and everywhere else you enjoy podcasts.