Residents in north Pickering, Ont., can finally connect to high speed internet — after what the mayor says was a call for help from Toronto hip-hop artist Drake.
Following two years of advocacy with internet service providers, it was Bell that answered that call.
“To be called out by a superstar like Drake over social media is not an everyday occurrence,” says Dave Ryan, Pickering’s mayor. “However, it did shine a light on the digital divide for many of our residents and businesses in our hamlets and rural areas.”
The city says thanks to Bell Canada and a multi-year investment in Fibre internet for those communities, residents are now able to access much faster connectivity than with their previous service.
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It all started with an Instagram post from Drake back in 2020, asking the city for help — saying his producer needed faster internet.
“Can the mayor of Pickering set up some stronger wifi towers, so my producer Boi1da can be able to send me all his newest beats,” he says. “Trying to cook up. Thanks.”
That post went viral, leading a city official to respond to Drake’s plea with a tongue in cheek answer – a post referencing a number of Drake lyrics and promising results.
After that interaction, the city says several internet service providers (ISPs) reached out to discuss broadband enhancement and expansion in hamlets and rural areas around Pickering.
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Fast forward to today and Bell has already hooked up thousands of people with fibre broadband internet — including Boi1da, Drake’s producer.
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“I want to thank Mayor Ryan, the City of Pickering, and of course Bell Canada for providing this new high speed Internet connection,” he says in a statement.
“I work with international artists from all over the world, and it’s important to be able to do so right here from my home studio in Pickering in order to maximize our artistic and creative energies,” Boi1da says.
Residents around the northern part of the city also benefitted, including some people who had no idea they were missing out.
“It’s like Christmas came to me for sure, just being able to explore,” says Betty Michaud, a resident in the historic Whitevale neighbourhood.
“It was just like a whole new world opened up to me.”
“I had no idea what people’s enjoyment of Netflix or Amazon was,” said Michaud, who has been online since December.
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In 2022, Bell Canada will have installed high-speed internet in Pickering’s hamlets of Kinsale, Whitevale, Claremont, and Green River. They aim to have more than 21,000 residents online.
The advocacy work has been a long time coming for the region — as there are still several neighbourhoods without adequate internet connections. Simon Gill, director of Economic Development and Tourism with the region, says this is a step in the right direction.
“It’s a great example of the city of Pickering working hard to advocate for their professionals and getting internet across to these communities,” says Gill.
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Demetrios Stavros lives in Claremont and runs a business part-time as a chiropractor from home. He says right now — it’s hard to conduct sessions with spotty service.
“Every now and then we’ll have difficulties with the connection. so there will be a lot of delay with a lag, communicating with the patients can be challenging.”
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He’s happy to know improvements could be coming soon.
“The rural communities do also need this service and I think that it’s fantastic that Drake is stepping up for us that live outside the city.”
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