EORN Gig Project proposal sent to provincial ministers

·3 min read

The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) took another major step in improving high-speed broadband internet access in Eastern Ontario on Monday.

Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison, Belleville Mayor Mitch Panciuk and Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson joined with EORN Chair J. Murray Jones, Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus Chairwoman Debbie Robinson, Eastern Ontario Mayors’ Caucus Chair Dianne Therrien and wardens and mayors of surrounding regions to send a letter to Laurie Scott, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure and Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, in regards to EORN’s Gig Project proposal.

Representing 1.2 million people and thousands of local businesses across the region, the letter explains how COVID-19 has exacerbated the already present frustrations from constituents about the poor or limited access to high-speed broadband services. As the pandemic continues, many citizens of Ontario are experiencing difficulty working from home or accessing online learning platforms reliably due to this issue.

“Residents and businesses need to be assured that they will have access to the kinds of technologies that many in large cities already enjoy,” wrote the 21 mayors and wardens. “They also tell us that they want solutions that will last for years to come because they know demand is growing exponentially every year for more and more bandwidth at higher speeds.”

The letter acknowledged that there are many ways to tackle the problem and bring broadband infrastructure to homes and businesses across the region and that undertaking this project would be a major commitment for any government. The wardens and mayors collectively expressed their support and the need for all levels of government, along with the private sector, to come together to connect residents and businesses to the right high-speed services that they require and deserve.

Expectations among residents and businesses in eastern Ontario continue to rise with the announcement of the provincial ICON program and the federal UBF broadband funding programs. While a regional strategy with a coordinated approach may not be readily available in many areas of Ontario, the letter explains the strong belief that a coordinated, comprehensive regional project for the 113 municipalities of eastern Ontario is the best way to address the challenge of getting the region from 65 per cent coverage with access to even 50/10 speeds to 95 per cent coverage.

“We stand ready to push forward with the Gig Project,” stated the letter. “Let EORN be your vehicle to connect the more than 550,000 premises across eastern Ontario that deserve the same fibre optic technology that is available in most large cities today.”

Quick, efficient and effective, Eastern Regional Ontario Network is a non-profit organization that addresses the digital divide by improving rural connectivity and supporting economic growth.

The organizations represented in the letter understand the critical importance of access to world-class broadband technologies to local economies. The letter closed by asking the addressed ministers Scott and Monsef to partner with and help fund the EORN Gig Project set in motion.

Virginia Clinton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Intelligencer