Essex County pledges $1.1 million to bring faster internet to rural areas

Essex County Council has voted to pledge $1.1 million to a project that will bring more broadband fibre optic cable and high-speed internet service to rural parts of the region.

The project is called SWIFT — Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology, and is funded with $288 million in provincial and federal money.

Municipalities that want to take advantage of the funding must also kick in some cash, but County Warden Tom Bain said SWIFT is a project that will pay off for the community.

"It's something that's going to certainly help us with our economy here," he explained.

The government funding also allows for a refund to municipalities. Essex County will be able to recoup $702,843 after the build is completed.

County CAO Brian Gregg recommended council waive the refund so more money would go into the project, but councillors voted to wait and see how successful SWIFT ends up being before passing on the refund.

Installation of the project is expected to begin in 2018 and last for five years.