Families and businesses across Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound can look forward to faster internet and better cellphone service as the province releases its first-ever $315-million plan to improve and expand broadband and cellular infrastructure across rural communities.
“Our government is committed to helping businesses, families and farms stay connected, no matter where they live,” said Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker. “Our investment will get shovels in the ground, get infrastructure built, and get people and business connected.”
The plan includes a $150 million commitment for a new broadband fund, which will leverage private sector funding along with support from other levels of government, to drive investment and expansion to unserved and under-served communities.
Ontario’s plan is expected to generate up to $1 billion in total investment over five years, resulting in new connections for up to 220,000 homes and businesses. It will lead to community, social and economic benefits well beyond the provincial investment.
“Too many people, especially those living in rural and remote communities, do not have access to reliable internet services,” said Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott. “It means they can’t work from home, stay connected to family and friends, or access public services such as health care and education. In our increasingly digital world, being disconnected means being disadvantaged. This must change.”
In the 2019 Ontario Budget, the provincial government announced $315 million over the next five years for broadband and cellular expansion. It has also committed $71 million toward the $213 million Eastern Ontario Regional Network project to improve cellular and mobile broadband in up to 99 per cent of the region where people live, work and travel.
According to Walker, the government is supporting the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project in Southwestern Ontario, the Niagara Region and the Town of Caledon, committing up to $63.7 million in funding toward SWIFT’s total project costs of more than $190 million. It is also addressing barriers to infrastructure expansion by maximizing the use of existing government assets and programs and modernizing government to cut red tape to encourage broadband and cellular expansion.