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Feds announce $6.9+ million investment in rural internet initiatives

Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, together with Francis Drouin, Member of Parliament for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, on behalf of the Honourable Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development, announced over $6.9 million in funding Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, for rural internet initiatives.

Mark Gerretsen, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands at today’s virtual presser. Screen captured image.

The money will go to five projects bringing high-speed internet to more than 3,455 households in rural Ontario, according to the Minister of Rural Economic Development, “helping create jobs, improving access to health care and online learning services, and keeping people connected. Through the Universal Broadband Fund, the Government of Canada has committed over $2.6 billion to date to connect rural Canadians to better, faster internet. We will continue making investments like these in rural and remote communities to help connect every single Canadian to high-speed Internet.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed how we live, work, learn and do business and, now more than ever, Canadians across the country need reliable high-speed internet to access services, supports and opportunities. 

“This project is another important step towards our government’s plan to connect 98 per cent of all Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026 and 100 per cent of Canadians by 2030,” explained Gerretsen. 

“I want to thank everybody who made today’s announcement possible. We know that reliable high-speed internet access is more than just a convenience these days, it’s a necessity. And we’re pleased to be working with our municipal partners and the internet providers here today to bring better internet service to the region… thank you for your partnership and I look forward to hearing about your progress in the weeks and months to come.”

Gerretsen detailed how the funds would be allocated: 

  • $371,619 for an Algonquin Fiber project benefiting the community of Dwight
  • $683,644 for an Algonquin Fiber project benefiting the communities of Dwight and Lumina
  • $267,781 for a Bell Canada Enterprises project benefiting the community of Athens
  • $3,992,993 for a Lakeland Networks project benefiting the communities of Severn Bridge, Vernon Shores, Melissa, Port Sydney, Golden Beach, Novar, Allensville, Centurion, Utterson, Bracebridge and Ravenscliffe
  • $1,592,854 for a WTC Communications project benefiting communities in the Rideau Lakes area, including Portland, The Bush, Morton, Seeley’s Bay and Delta

Among today’s speakers was Mike Lynn, General Manager of WTC Communications, which will be partnering with the Government of Canada and the Township of Rideau Lakes to bring fibre to the home with speeds up to 1 Gbps (GigaBytes per second) to over 750 homes, and 50/10 Mbps (Megabits per second) fixed wireless service to over 900 homes. 

Mark Gerretsen shared the news on social media shortly after the virtual press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Screen captured image, Facebook.

“This project,” said Lynn, “will continue to expand WTC’s fibre network in Rideau Lakes and give residents the connections they need to work, learn, socialize, and entertain themselves. We would like to thank the Minister and the federal government for their support to bring better broadband to our rural communities. We would also like to thank Mayor Hoogenboom and the Rideau Lakes Council for their commitment to improving broadband throughout the township.”

Canada’s Connectivity Strategy aims to provide all Canadians with access to internet speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download / 10 Mbps upload. Since 2015, Government of Canada funding has supported projects to bring high-speed internet to over 1.1 million households in rural and remote communities across Canada, according to the federal government.

In 2021, 131 projects supported through the Rapid Response Stream of the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) were announced. These projects will bring high-speed internet to more than 75,000 households in rural and remote communities across Canada.

Part of a suite of federal investments to improve high-speed internet, the UBF is a $2.75 billion investment by the Government of Canada to help connect 98 per cent of Canadians to high-speed Internet by 2026, and achieve the national target of 100 per cent connectivity by 2030.

The suite also includes the Connect to Innovate program, which is expected to connect nearly 400,000 households by 2023, and the $2 billion broadband initiative from the Canada Infrastructure Bank.

Mark Gerretsen stressed, “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of staying connected to one another, and vital to this connection is fast and reliable internet. Thanks to the government’s investment in these Rapid Response Stream projects, Ontarians living in rural and remote communities are gaining access to high-speed internet connections they can count on.”

Ted Hsu for MPP
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