Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark is celebrating the announcement that Ontario is investing $150 million to address much needed broadband infrastructure across unserved and underserved regions of the province.
Steve said the investment is designed to connect more residents and businesses in rural areas of the province like Leeds and Grenville to reliable broadband and cellular service. The Improving Connectivity in Ontario program, or ICON, has the potential to leverage up to $500 million in total partner funding.
“I have been working to address the concerns I have heard from many area residents and businesses about the challenges they face staying connected to the world because of poor internet and cellular service. These issues have become even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “I am proud our government is announcing this significant investment to bring the people of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes one step closer to more reliable connectivity.”
Once the ICON program opens its initial application intake later this month, applicants – including 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 in communities across Ontario. The province will fund a portion of each approved project.
“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 many 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. In the past several months, Ontario has partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to leverage $213 million to improve access to cellular and mobile broadband in eastern Ontario.