Belleville city council has strongly supported a letter from the Township of Amour calling for governments to make a substantial investment in high-speed internet connectivity in rural areas of Ontario.
“The letter we received from Armour Township and Coun. Roy Ward summarizes the difficulties of people in rural areas have with poor connectivity and they say, and I agree, ‘high speed connectivity cannot be seen as a luxury or nice to have anymore than hydro should be’. The wise investment is providing connectivity for every resident in the province, and with the increased demand on internet and so many people using the internet and working from home it must make it very difficult in the rural areas and it can’t get anything but worse, so I’m asking that we support this motion,” said Coun. Pat Culhane.
Thurlow Ward Councillors Paul Carr and Bill Sandison both supported the proposal, noting they have been advocating for improved service in their rural area of Belleville.
“High speed internet in rural sections of Ontario has been a screaming need for at least a decade and over the course of the last year-and-a-half, maybe even two years, we’ve had federal announcements of money, we’ve had provincial announcements of money, we most recently had the Eastern Ontario Regional Network take on the procurement of expanding internet in the rural Ontario, and specifically in our region,” said Sandison.
However, Sandison said the deployment schedule for the monies that have already been committed is needed. He said a schedule, rather than just discussion of funds, would indicate progress.
“This has been a message to the feds and the province for the last 10 to 15 years, and it seems to be no better today then it was in 2008,” said Coun. Sean Kelly.
Carr said the issue has been one for many years and recalled meeting with former MP Mike Bossio on Parliament Hill in early 2018 as well as a Connect to Innovate announcement the same year in Corbyville.
“We were told at that announcement that as far as rural Belleville goes and even rural Hastings County goes, and even rural Eastern Ontario goes that this would be the solution, and interestingly enough, the one thing that we don’t see is the timeline and we don’t see the deliverables,” Carr said.
Carr noted while he supported the motion wholeheartedly, “the more we pile on the better, but perhaps the mayor could send a letter to the Member of Parliament to get a timeline on some of these things. The announcements are great, and that Connect to Innovate announcement was supposed to solve all our broadband issues in Eastern Ontario and certainly in Belleville we would have high speed internet right to our northern border, and that hasn’t been the case, and I don’t even know how much work has been done.”
“The money has been promised, but it has not flowed yet because in our system of government we have to have contracts signed, you have to have RFPs released before the money gets released by those federal and provincial governments,” said Mayor Mitch Panciuk. “Successive governments have promised and have in some cases re-promised monies, meanwhile the Eastern Ontario Regional Network has been doing all the prep work and figuring out what the game plan is, and right now there is an RFP out for the installation of these towers and once that is received and a decision is made to award the contract only then will some of those funds move forward.”
Panciuk he has been told the project will be completed by 2025.