Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP says broadband investment essential in region

Bruce-Grey Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker (photo submitted)

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker says his government’s $150 million for broadband infrastructure will be welcome news for many constituents who are underserved.

He says they face challenges staying connected with limited to access to cellular and broadband connectivity especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says it will help bring Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound residents one step closer to more reliable connectivity.

Once the ICON program opens its initial application intake later this month, applicants –telecom companies, municipal governments, Indigenous communities and non-profits — will be invited to submit innovative proposals to lend their investment, expertise, and experience to improve connectivity. The province will fund a portion of each approved project.

The Improving Connectivity in Ontario, or ICON, has the potential to leverage up to $500 million in total partner funding.

“Now more than ever before, our government recognizes that the people of Ontario need to be connected to learn, work, and run their businesses. This program is an important step toward bridging the digital divide,” said Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott.

The Improving Connectivity in Ontario program is part of Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan, which includes $315-million to improve and expand cellular service and broadband in rural and remote communities across Ontario. In the span of a year, Ontario has advanced initiatives to improve access to broadband and cellular service across eastern, western and northern Ontario. All of these initiatives are expected to generate more than $1 billion in investments over five years.

As much as 12 per cent of households in Ontario – mostly in rural, remote or northern areas – are underserved or unserved, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The Province is investing in the $190 million Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project to bring high-speed broadband to 50,000 more homes and businesses across Southwestern Ontario. Recently, SWIFT Inc. awarded contracts to bring high-speed internet to thousands of homes and businesses in Lambton, Wellington and Norfolk counties. More contracts are expected to be awarded for additional counties across southwestern Ontario.