$7.5M project to boost high-speed internet in Middlesex County

·2 min read

A $7.5-million broadband project will bring high-speed internet access to more than 1,100 homes and businesses in Middlesex County by mid-2022.

Southwestern Ontario Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) has awarded contracts to six internet providers to bring 109 kilometres of underserved roadways in Middlesex County online.

“This is great news for Middlesex County as improved access to reliable and affordable broadband internet is essential for our residents, businesses, and visitors,” Warden Cathy Burghardt-Jesson said in a release.

“Access to high-speed internet services will allow . . . residents and businesses across the County to experience the social and economic benefits of this important infrastructure.”

SWIFT is a non-profit broadband expansion initiative launched by the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus in 2014.

The initiative subsidizes expansion of open-access, high-speed internet networks in rural and underserved areas of Southwestern Ontario.

The federal and provincial governments are contributing $2.1 million each to the Middlesex County broadband network. The remainder of the $7.5 million comes from internet service providers.

The project spans 1,117 homes and businesses in Thames Centre, Adelaide-Metcalfe, Strathroy-Caradoc and Middlesex Centre.

Service in some areas is set to be available next March, with other areas coming online throughout the year.

SWIFT aims to bring high-speed internet to 50,000 underserved households in Southwestern Ontario by 2024 as part of a $209-million broadband initiative.

Barry Field, the non-profit’s executive director, said plans to expand the Middlesex project to even more homes await final approval.

Politicians in the region said quality internet access is even more essential amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shifted business, education and social connections online.

"In 2021, the ability to stay connected — whether to family, friends, or customers — has never been more important," MPP Monte McNaughton (PC-Lambton–Kent–Middlesex) said in a release. "I'm pleased to see more families and businesses in Middlesex will have the opportunity to stay connected to the things that matter most to them."

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Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press