MPP Walker excited about local Broadband Expansion

This week, the Governments of Canada and Ontario marked the beginning of construction of broadband infrastructure that will deliver reliable internet access to nearly 4,000 homes and businesses across Grey County. Both levels of government have each committed up to $5.3 million to seven projects, which will create more economic and educational opportunities in rural, remote and underserved areas of Southwestern Ontario through an improved, modern broadband network.

“The pandemic has emphasized the importance of expanding quality broadband to our rural and remote areas,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “With more students studying remotely, and more people working from home, the internet has become an essential part of life for many people. It will help businesses expand and create new jobs, and connect more people to the resources, services and information they need.”

The first project to start construction is valued at $4.3 million and will deliver reliable internet access to more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Holstein, Varney, Orchardville, Maple Lane, Yeovil, Dromore, Tartan and Thistle. Construction is expected to be complete with service available by June of 2021. 

The contracts to expand fibre-optic broadband services in Grey County were awarded by Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) Inc, a not-for-profit corporation initiated by local municipalities to address connectivity in Southwestern Ontario.

“It’s very exciting to see the SWIFT projects in Bruce and Grey counties moving ahead. Access to broadband internet service is a game-changer for our rural communities as it will help attract new business, new jobs and families to our area,” said Bill Walker, MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. “It’s great to see this project starting in the Dromore area taking the next step and I look forward to more projects getting the shovel in the ground in the coming weeks.”

The governments of Canada and Ontario recognize how important rural broadband access is for individuals, families and businesses. Work continues to bridge the gaps in broadband access in Southwestern Ontario, as part of a combined investment of more than $191 million to bring fast, reliable internet to thousands of homes and businesses. The SWIFT projects in Bruce County total more than $16 million and the projects in Grey County are more than $17 million.

“We invested to connect nearly 400,000 households by 2023 through the Connect to Innovate program,” said the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development. “Work is underway every day and in the next 18 months, we will connect 250,000 of these households. Our ambitious plan is working because we are working with our partners at the community level. We have also launched the Universal Broadband Fund – a $1.75 billion investment that will help connect all Canadians to the high-speed internet they need. Our number one goal over the coming months will be supporting high quality plans and applications from every community who needs better access. Together, with partners like those involved here in Grey County, we will achieve universal internet access, and ensure that location does not determine any Canadian’s access to essential services, working from home and connecting with their loved ones. Congratulations to all the partners involved in this project by SWIFT!”

“SWIFT is delivering on its commitment to expand and improve broadband connectivity throughout Southwestern Ontario,” said David Mayberry, SWIFT Board Chair. “With the support of the governments of Ontario and Canada, shovels are now in the ground to bring greater access to high-speed services to many more residents living in Grey County.”

Creating more ways to strengthen rural economies is part of the government’s plan to build Ontario together. Reliable and affordable broadband internet will allow communities to attract new development, strengthen local economies and create more well-paying jobs and opportunities in rural Ontario.

The governments of Canada and Ontario are each contributing more than $63 million to SWIFT through the New Building Canada Fund’s Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component – Small Communities Fund of the Investing in Canada plan.

·         SWIFT Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation initiated by the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus to address connectivity in Southwestern Ontario that will support the critical expansion of broadband to underserved areas.

·         The Ontario government is making a historic investment of nearly $1 billion over six years to improve and expand broadband and cellular access across the province. On November 4, Ontario announced $680 million on top of the $315 million to support Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. This funding will create jobs and connect unserved and underserved communities during COVID-19 and beyond.

 ·         The Ontario government will continue to expand access to broadband and cellular service through the Improving Connectivity for Ontario program (ICON). It has doubled its investment in the program to $300 million. This multi-year program aims to support approved projects as early as 2021.