Ontario boosting broadband and cell service for rural communities
June 8, 2020
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June 8, 2020 – Ontario is investing $150 million in “reliable” broadband and cellular service in rural and remote areas of the province. This initiative is part of the province’s $315-million initiative “Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan”.
“We have long advocated that this is an essential service, critical to our local economies and for accessing healthcare and education,” Allan Thompson, chair, Rural Ontario Municipal Association. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that now is the time for governments and the private sec-tor to work together to find solutions for the patchwork of connectivity across our province.”
The new ICON (Improving Connectivity in Ontario) program has the potential to result in an in-vestment of up to $500 million in total partner funding to improve connectivity in underserved and unserved areas.
Applicants, including telcos, municipal governments, First Nation communities, and non-profits will be invited to submit proposals and lend their “investment, expertise and experience” to improve connectivity in communities across Ontario. The province will fund a portion of each approved project.
“By doing their part and staying home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the people of Ontario have demonstrated the need to be connected to learn, work and run their businesses,” said Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott. “It appears that functioning remotely will continue to be a regular way of life for many in this new environment, and fast, reliable internet will be critical.”
According to the CRTC, up to 12% of households in Ontario—mostly in rural, remote or Northern areas—are underserved or unserved.
“Access to high-speed internet is foundational to our young people’s success in learning, working, and innovating—today and into the future,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “Our government is taking action by connecting all schools to broadband, starting with high schools this September 2020, and elementary schools by September 2021. It is also why we are calling on the federal government to step up their investment to connect the next-generation of thinkers and workers to the modern and digital economy.”
The ICON program is one of several initiatives underway to expand access to mobile broadband and high-speed internet services, says the government.