Nouvelle, a rather small village of 2000 inhabitants in Eastern Quebec, is rolling out an inexpensive plan for municipal wireless using WiMAX.
MuniWiFi has often been criticised, especially in the United States. Some plans, especially in large cities, have been pegged as anti-competitive and “bad for business.” Sprint Nextel’s involvement in WiMAX is possibly being reconsidered. But the Nouvelle plan seems different.
In this case, the municipality isn’t competing with a private provider since wiring up the region wouldn’t be profitable for a private provider anyway. According to a short report on a tech podcast over at Radio-Canada, the plan is to integrate the WiMax plan as a utility on residents’ tax bill. Apparently, the plan would cost 50$ (CAD) a year for each household.
Given the current economic conditions for remote parts of Quebec, this could easily be the beginning of a new trend. Not that a small village would suddenly be transformed into a hub of tech expertise. But opportunities for telecommuting can eventually reverse the trend toward “rural exodus.” Some comment writers on the Radio-Canada piece mention the possibility to bring young people back to rural areas in Quebec. In fact, there’s currently a government-sponsored campaign to get young people to move away from urban areas back into rural areas. Similar campaigns exist to get newcomers (immigrants and migrants) to move to those areas. Much of these campaigns might have more to do with employment than with anything else and the notion seems to be that the best way to attract anyone to those regions is to have good employment opportunities.
At the same time, some urbanites are moving to those regions. Gaspésie, where this WiFi-savvy village is located, is one such region which attracts increasing number of wealthy urbanites who move there to avoid the stresses of city life. The result is often that real-estate prices are going up for the most desirable places, making it more difficult for young locals to get their own propriety. It also seems that some urbanites fail to engage in the local communities to which they moved, thereby creating some tension between individuals in those communities.