The Ontario government is making an investment of nearly $1 billion over six years to improve and expand broadband and cellular access across the province, including Eastern Ontario, says Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes MPP Steve Clark.
The government has announced a $680-million investment, which is on top of the $315 million announced previously 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, will create jobs, and connect unserved and underserved communities during COVID-19 and beyond.
“One of the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for our rural communities to have access to faster, more reliable broadband to work, attract new investment and jobs, help our businesses market their products to online customers across the globe, allow our children to learn, and keep us connected to the digital world,” said MPP Clark. “I am so proud that our government continues to make these critical investments, and at historic amounts, to deliver on the commitments I’ve made to improve the connectivity for the residents of Leeds and Grenville.”
The investment doubles funding for the Improving Connectivity in Ontario (ICON) program, bringing the new total to $300 million. This program now has the potential to leverage more than $900 million in total partner funding to improve connectivity in areas of need across Ontario. 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 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 Telecommunica- tions Commission (CRTC) data.
“This investment will connect even more residents in communities across Ontario to faster, more reliable Internet and cell service,” said Minister Scott. “Today’s commitment to connect more people to reliable broadband and cellular service — along with many others we’ve made — will make it easier for more people to work and learn from home, run their businesses and connect with others.”
In October, the province released Ontario Onwards: Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan for a People-Focused Government. Improving access to broadband and cellular service is one of the initial projects. Through Ontario Onwards, the province will help make government services more efficient and the lives of people and businesses better. Today’s announcement is another example of the government’s commitment to making Ontario the world’s leading digital jurisdiction.
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.
Access to broadband is a core component of the province’s Learn at Home plan. Reliable Internet, particularly in rural and regional areas, is essential to supporting students’ success in school. The provincial government recently called on the federal government to take immediate action to improve Internet connectivity for Ontario students.