TOWN OF ERIN – An effort to get funding for rural internet in Erin is getting some political support.
Rogers Communications Canada Inc. has applied for funding from the Universal Broadband Fund – a $1.75 billion federal fund to support internet connection projects in rural communities—to improve broadband in rural Erin.
Riding MP Michael Chong and MPP Ted Arnott have sent letters to support this application.
Chong’s letter said funding this project is critical for Erin residents and businesses to have better access to government services, e-commerce and internet-based resources.
In an email, Chong said he sent his support because of how obvious this gap has become during the pandemic.
“Many constituents in rural areas of Wellington County have told me how difficult it is to get affordable, reliable high-speed Internet. This has been especially true during the pandemic,” Chong said in an email.
“Many people have had to work from home and children have had to attend school on-line. I’ve been raising this issue in Ottawa for some time, so when the opportunity came up to expand high-speed Internet in the riding, I jumped on it to support it.”
Erin mayor Allan Alls said in an interview he’s glad to get the support of Chong and Arnott on this application.
Alls said this is the third internet service provider looking to improve internet coverage in Erin but he sees Rogers as the most promising prospect as they are a large company.
However, he said the funding is critical due to how expensive it is to lay fibre in a rural area.
“Erin’s a little difficult because we have a lot of undulating geography, you know up and down and block signals,” Alls said. “My understanding is, at least with Rogers, they plan to run fibre optic cable down each gravel road all the way through the town.”
Some municipalities in Wellington County are getting improved rural broadband through SWIFT projects but Erin was not one of them.
Alls said the town was excluded because it was determined Erin was already well covered. The mayor said this isn’t the case.
“The only areas that have high speed basically are the two urban centres, Hillsburgh and Erin,” Alls said.
“A majority of the populace live out in the country and most of them commute and work in Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville or Toronto. They’re now working from home with their kids working from home so they’re desperate for something better in the way of an internet provider.”
As the town is expected to see significant growth in housing and population, Alls said he thinks internet providers should be very interested in that.
“My council, myself and our staff have been working hard to try to find a solution for our rural residents and I think these are the best hopes right now that we can get,” Alls said.
Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com