by Deron Johnson
A lack of adequate cellular phone coverage and reliable broadband internet have been longstanding issues for rural Eastern Ontario. This has put the area at a serious disadvantage in terms of trying to grow local economies, creating jobs, and even maintaining residential population in rural areas. In fact, as of December 2016, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared that reliable broadband internet is now considered an essential service in Canada.
Recently, the federal government announced that it will provide the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) with $71 million in funding to help fill gaps in mobile broadband coverage. This funding, which matches the provincial government’s commitment of $71 million, creates the opportunity for a $213 million public-private partnership that would, potentially, improve both the reach and quality of mobile broadband services in Eastern Ontario.
All members of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, and most municipalities within the Caucus region, are investing in the $10 million municipal contribution. Mobile providers, who will be chosen through a competitive bidding process, are expected to provide the rest of the funding.
There are currently significant gaps in both the reach and capacity of mobile broadband networks across areas of rural Eastern Ontario, where people live, work, or travel. These gaps are primarily due to the fact that rural areas don’t generate enough revenue to make it financially worthwhile for mobile providers to build adequate networks to offer the service.
40% of the area does not have access to high-definition services which allow streaming HD video.
20% of the area does not have access to standard definition video, typical mobile app use, and video app calling, while 10% has no voice call service.
The public-private partnership will reduce carriers’ infrastructure costs, creating a better business case to enhance and extend coverage to meet the CRTC’s basic services goals.
The improvements would unlock significant economic potential over 10 years, including more than 3,000 potential full-time job equivalents, and more than $420 million in potential private sector business revenues.
EORN, is a non-profit organization that was created by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), to improve broadband access to nearly 90% of Eastern Ontario through a $175 million fixed broadband network funded by the federal, provincial and municipal governments and private sector service providers. It works with governments and community organizations to improve and leverage broadband access to fuel economic development and growth across the region.
The EOWC directed EORN to prepare and submit a project proposal to improve access to mobile broadband services and support the creation of a public safety broadband network.
More information is available at www.eorn.ca.