Province investing millions in broadband and cellular service for Ontarians
Premier Doug Ford announced today that the province will be investing $150 million in reliable broadband and cellular service, particularly for residents living in rural, remote, and underserved/unserved areas of the province.
The funding is part of the province’s $315 million initiative called Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan, which Ford says was a government focus even before the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated working and learning from home.
“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 Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure.
According to the province, the new Improving Connectivity in Ontario (ICON) program could result in an investment of up to $500 million in total partner funding to improve connectivity in underserved and unserved areas.
“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. The ICON program is an important step towards bridging the digital divide in Ontario.”
Data suggests that as many as 12 per cent of Ontario households (mostly in rural, remote or northern areas) are underserved or unserved, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
To assist students when they eventually return back to school, the province also plans to connect all Ontario schools to broadband, starting with high schools this September and elementary schools by September 2021.
“Access to high-speed Internet is foundational to our young people’s success in learning, working, and innovating, today and into the future,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
“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 government says the ICON program is just one of several initiatives to expand access to mobile broadband and high-speed Internet services — Ontario recently partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to leverage $213 million to improve access in Eastern Ontario.
Going forward, the province will invite applicants (including telecom companies, municipal governments, First Nation communities, and non-profits) to submit proposals and investments for improving connectivity in communities across Ontario, with the province funding a portion of each approved project.
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