Ontario unveils plan to improve rural internet and cell service

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Families and businesses in rural and remote communities can look forward to high-speed internet and better cellphone service as the province releases its $315 million action plan to improve and expand service.

“In today’s world, access to high-speed internet and reliable cellphone service is essential for families, businesses and farms – no matter where they are located. I’m proud our government is committed to helping communities in rural Ontario get connected,” said Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark. “Our investment will get shovels in the ground, get infrastructure built and get people and business plugged in to the world around them. For communities in Leeds and Grenville, this investment is an essential component of our efforts to attract new residential development and grow our economy.”

The plan includes a $150 million commitment for a new broadband fund, which will leverage private sector funding along with support from other levels of government, to drive investment and expansion to unserved and underserved communities.

Ontario’s plan is expected to generate up to $1 billion in total investment over five years, resulting in new connections for up to 220,000 homes and businesses. This will lead to community, social and economic benefits well beyond the provincial investment.

“Too many people, especially those living in rural and remote communities, do not have access to reliable internet access,” said Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott. “It means they can’t work from home, stay connected to family and friends, or access public services such as health care and education. In our increasingly digital world, being disconnected means being disadvantaged. This must change.”

QUICK FACTS:

In the 2019 Ontario Budget, the provincial government announced $315 million over the next five years for broadband and cellular expansion.

Ontario has committed $71 million toward the $213 million Eastern Ontario Regional Network project to improve cellular and mobile broadband in up to 99 per cent of the region where people live, work and travel.

Ontario is supporting the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project in Southwestern Ontario, the Niagara Region and the Town of Caledon, committing up to $63.7 million in funding toward SWIFT’s total project costs of more than $190 million.

Ontario is also addressing barriers to infrastructure expansion by maximizing the use of existing government assets and programs and modernizing government to cut red tape to encourage broadband and cellular expansion.

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