We’ve become a technology-dependent society.

High-speed broadband internet access, which allows us to move larger and larger amounts of data back and forth, is a requirement of a population increasingly dependent on smartphones, watches, TVs, laptops and tablets to interact with one another, conduct our business and access our movies, shows, games, news and information.

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This capability has been almost exclusively a privilege of those living and working close to urban centres that have cable and fibre optics infrastructure. While many of us take this for granted, much as we expect light at the flip of a switch, many of Canada’s rural regions have been left in the information highway ditch since the advent of the world wide web almost three decades ago. These limitations have grown increasingly significant because more of our progress and day-to-day tasks involve reliable high-speed access to the internet.

That is all changing as the global village is finally becoming truly global in scope.

Tesla founder and rocket man Elon Musk, through the determination and foresight of two of his companies, SpaceX and Starlink, has been busily launching clusters of low-orbit satellites into space every week or so since the first batch of 60 was launched on May 23, 2019.

While Musk is leading the charge on the new space race, there are a number of deep-pocketed players bringing their own plans onboard that will see low earth orbit satellites blanketing the entirety of the earth with high-speed broadband accessibility.

My prediction is that satellite internet will bring about changes as profound as the smartphone did for modern society, and likely more so.

Geographically unrestricted access to the internet at high data transfer speeds is going to reshape how the world works, and more significantly, where we can then choose to live and to work in the years ahead.

The Realtor in me sees this as a transition that will allow more people to move to rural settings, attracted by the obvious qualities that rural living offers, coupled with the greater affordability of developable land, and residential real estate available to us in many of the more interior parts of Canada.

Imagine being able to buy an existing home or a piece of serviceable property out in the country, then building your custom dream home for a fraction of what it would cost to buy a home almost anywhere in a Canadian city that’s experiencing the high and rapidly climbing housing prices we are seeing.

Imagine being just as instantaneously connected with the world from your secluded dream home as someone in a downtown office or condo. This will be a major attraction for those who opt to work remotely for all or even for a part of their work schedule.

I am willing to bet that a steadily increasing migration over the coming years will result. Currently, close to a million Canadians own second homes or cottages. I expect increasing numbers of them will, sooner than later, want to convert them to permanent year-round homes.

Canada is dotted by thousands of picturesque and charming small towns and villages that in a world with satellite internet will begin to see an influx of migration from those who would love a viable alternative to living in overpriced, densely populated urban centres.

The average price for a home in the Greater Toronto Area right now sits around $1million.

Travel an hour north, west, or east from the GTA and you begin to see comparable homes for sale for around half that cost and often on larger lots. Head two hours out of the GTA and you begin to see quality homes for sale for under $300,000.

As you head further away from the GTA average home prices continue to drop and the other thing that becomes apparent is the increasing numbers of buildable lots for sale.

The same holds true right across the country. Some of our more affordable residential real estate is in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. These are picture-postcard homes in some of the nicest maritime settings that until now have been isolated from or had limited access to high-speed internet.

I expect this will put upward pressure on the values of rural land and homes in some areas.

The early adapters will have the best opportunity. At the same time, this shift may begin to see downwards pressure on property values in high-priced, high-demand urban markets as the technology playing field becomes widely accessible.

I see this as the beginning of a downshifting of the more or less forced relationship we have always had with major cities.

The other advantages of satellite internet will be the ability to provide remote locations, small towns and villages and First Nations communities with quality online education and health resources that until now have been available almost exclusively to those in range of more heavily populated areas of the country.

A lion’s share of our provincial and federal government resources and the many jobs affiliated with them tend to be concentrated within our larger urban centres. With the ability to spread them out more evenly across the country we could see significant cost savings, along with employment opportunities being made available to a far wider range of our population. The same benefits will apply to a significant portion of our private sector, and to economies beyond our own borders, in a world where more than half our population has up until now not had any access to the internet.

As a Barrie, Ont. Realtor, more and more I am assisting clients moving from Barrie to rural locations. They tend to be very much aware and anxious about the sacrifice of reliable cell phone, internet and cable service their move may mean for them.

Far more have resisted the temptation of such a move for this reason. That is all about to change, thanks to one more small but definitely significant step for mankind.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I have starlink at my house as part of the beta service, and it is excellent! For us in Northern Ontario, available internet access formed a huge part in a real estate search here, and now with the advent of starlink it is a game changer, without doubt.

  2. I agree with Mike that getting the internet in rural areas will definitely help the real estate market in those areas. However, there is much more that goes into buying a home. What about amenities such as grocery stores, medical services, education, recreation, entertainment, daycare, community services, etc? There are a myriad of factors that go into buying a home. Internet availability is simply one in the grand scheme.

  3. I think what we are seeing with the current trend is the fact that Covid “forced” people to work from home. What was once seen as something only the self-employed or CEO’s could do, was recast as a result of the pandemic. In other words, it is no longer taboo to work from home or the cottage, and this has been demonstrated as many companies whose employees worked remotely continued to operate just fine (if not work more).

    Why you ask? because high speed broad band is already here. Don’t get me wrong, love what Elon is doing, but his satellite won’t influence much of the real estate market, because a key consideration for people with seconds homes is accessibility, distance of travel and ease of access, before it is broadband. The great majority of people will want to be within that 3hr driving distance. As such, if you take a 3 hour driving radius from the center of Toronto, you will find incredible high speed internet coverage. The only real issue at this point is cost, Rogers has especially good coverage, but is a little on the expensive side (I consider it the cost of doing business). Perhaps Elon’s Starlink service will be viable, but only because it is partially funded by the US government (nearly 1B and counting), but it won’t change the fact that the majority of people will need to be within a certain driving distance from major centers (kids go to school, workers will still go to office etc..). The only hurdle at this point is cost, hopefully more competitors will drive down data rates.

    In Prince Eduard County, the market has gone crazy, because of its accessibility and proximity to a major center, while still being “rural”. But high speed internet access is already broadly available. Give it to Ted Rogers, he saw this 20+ years ago and invested in the most populated recreational/second home areas such as Muskoka etc.. I can sit in the middle of lake Muskoka in a canoe using a rogers battery powered LTE device and get north of 100Gigbabits. Certainly coverage needs to expand, there are other smaller players such as XploreNet, and it will get better, but satellite coverage will influence areas where there isn’t likely to every be “local” coverage.

    This is what we seen across our platform, and why we added these capabilities to our driving distance, walking distance, proximity to a cell tower, accessibility, can help consumers find and evaluate the best properties. While I love what Elon is doing, I think the pandemic has more to do with the realization that working in a more rural setting is possible.

  4. Good article, it is happening now, migration from the big smoke has been steadily increasing for a year now, firstly Prince Edward County, now east to Kingston and Gananoque and all points between and north. As a mostly rural Realtor i have seen the change first hand. The very first question i get asked on rural property is internet and cell reception. The federal gov has been touting expanding rural broadband for about 5 years now but very little ever gets done, Musk will have it up and running before gov gets serious about it.

  5. October 1957 was the turning point in modern technology. Sputnik I launched by the then USSR opened up a whole new era. (The 15 yr old inside of me was totally awe-struck!). Communicating with the computers of the Mars Lander, and a myriad of others, has been happening. The new dimension is not just communication, but ultra highspeed communication. China has charged up 5G. In all likely hood, there will be race for being the global strategist in 5G or higher. Nano-seconds count – and there will be need for accuracy and redundancy. (Me – again awestruck! From a quarter-page b&w photo listing to full colour virtual listing, my 33 years in the industry tells me, ‘you ain’t seen it yet’!)

    • Well said Cummer it is so incredible all the changes that have happened since I started almost 37 years ago. The old tear sheets and real estate active and sold bound books of listings that came out every 2 weeks we would show our buyers and sellers the data and wait for the next book for updates. Today everything is live and updated in real time. Amazing changes that help consumer and the Realtors stay current on all transactions.

  6. Interesting thoughts. I can see the possibility of this (more so in the GTA than elsewhere in Canada) but I need to reflect more on it first. I can easily see some folks doing this, but I just don’t know if it would become an actual trend. It strikes me more as a wholesale life change decision and one that would encompass much more than just internet access as a factor. I guess time will tell.
    It will definitely change rural living for the better; when we lived out in the boonies in the 90s, we had to pay an extra $50/mo back then (in addition to the regular internet access fees) just to get real slow internet and listen to the modem whining and screeching.
    I used to be able to watch pictures download line by line.

  7. Interesting, but not entirely true. In Brockville, I know, I know, no one in Toronto has heard of us as we are 3.5 hours east even further east than Kingston. But our prices are crazy, a house that sold in 2018 for $158,000 just resold for $311,100 with 25 offers on it. It backs on to the railway tracks. Another 1950’s dated interior bungalow with single car garage, listed for $400,000 sold, with 16 offers on it, for $627,000.

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