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Province moving to expand broadband to underserved areas

Province moving to expand broadband to underserved areas

Ontario will spend $1 billion over six years to improve and expand broadband and cellular access across the province. $680 million was announced today is added to the $315 million to support Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. This funding will be used for shovel-ready projects starting in 2019-20,

Said Premier Ford. “With the world online these days, if we are going to attract more investment to Ontario and compete in this highly competitive global marketplace, we need every part of our province connected with high-speed Internet.”

The investment announced today doubles funding for the Improving Connectivity in Ontario (ICON) program Its hoped the additional spending will have the ¬†potential to leverage more han $900 million in private sector funding to improve connectivity in underserved areas across Ontario. As part of Ontario’s broadband and cellular action plan, ICON is one of several provincial initiatives underway to improve connectivity across Northern, Eastern and Southwestern Ontario, including rural areas in Flamborough.

Over 1.4 million people in Ontario do not have broadband or cellular access, and as many as 12 per cent of households in Ontario, mostly in rural, remote or Northern areas, are underserved or unserved from the perspective of broadband, according to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) data.

ICON was launched in July 2020. The program leverages partner funding by inviting applicants like telecom companies, municipal governments, First Nation communities, and non-profits, to submit innovative proposals and lend their investment, expertise and experience to improve connectivity in communities across Ontario. The province funds a portion of each approved project.

Over the past several months, Ontario has partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to invest $71 million in a $213 million project to improve access to cellular service and mobile broadband in Eastern Ontario.

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. In the past few months, SWIFT Inc. has awarded contracts to bring high-speed Internet to thousands of residents in Lambton, Wellington, Norfolk, Oxford, Dufferin, Essex and Caledon. More contracts are expected in the coming months.

Ontario has invested in initiatives to improve connectivity in Northern Ontario, including broadband projects through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Next Generation Network Program.

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