Federal government spending $55M on Xplornet, Rogers rural N.B. fibre plans

·3 min read
Gudie Hutchings, the minister of rural economic development, announced Friday in Miramichi that the federal government will spend $55 million to connect about 11,000 New Brunswick households to high-speed internet. (Mike Heenan/CBC - image credit)
Gudie Hutchings, the minister of rural economic development, announced Friday in Miramichi that the federal government will spend $55 million to connect about 11,000 New Brunswick households to high-speed internet. (Mike Heenan/CBC - image credit)

The federal government is spending $55 million for two companies to install high-speed fibre optic internet to connect about 11,000 households.

Toronto-based Rogers Communications Inc. will receive some of the funding, while Woodstock-based Xplornet Communications Inc. will receive another portion. No breakdown was provided of how much each company is set to receive.

Gudie Hutchings, the federal minister of rural economic development, made the announcement on Friday morning at a news conference in Miramichi that was scarce on details.

The minister said the communities where the money would be used covers a "huge" list. CBC requested the list, but it has yet to be provided.

"This isn't one big project for each of the proponents, there's a variety of projects to connect these homes we're connecting today, and each is a little different," Hutchings said.

Part of federal connection goal

The funding through the $2.75-billion Universal Broadband Fund is part of a commitment to have 98 per cent of Canadian households connected with speeds of 50 megabits per second download speed and 10 in upload by 2026.

The federal government has set a second target of 100 per cent by 2030.

Hutchings said the Liberal government has spent $43 million to connect 66,000 New Brunswick households since 2015.

The actual cost to service 10,802 New Brunswick households isn't clear. Both Rogers and Xplornet will spend more on top of the government funding, but no figures were disclosed.

"We're delighted to work with minister Hutchings to bring fibre to homes, gigabit speed internet service to rural New Brunswickers," Jeff Burlock, executive vice president and co-founder of Xplornet, said.

Mike Heenan/CBC
Mike Heenan/CBC

Burlock said the company, owned by New York private equity firm Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners since 2020, is already working with the federal government to connect more than 63,000 homes in the province to high speed internet.

Matthew MacLellan, president of the Atlantic region for Rogers, also said they will use the funding to install fibre in various locations that will be 2.5 gigabits up, and 2.5 gb down.

Hutchings said even with the spending announced so far, there will still be about 24,000 New Brunswick households that don't have high-speed internet service.

The minister said "talks" about future funding is ongoing with Rogers and Xplornet to service those households.

"My goal is to connect all of Canada and working with Rogers and Xplornet, we will get all of New Brunswick connected," Hutchings said.

Hutchings said the companies were selected after an application process that considered things like the equipment that would be used, whether the network infrastructure can be upgraded later to offer higher speeds, affordability, and connecting areas that don't already have service.

No provincial funding was part of the announcement.

Shortly after the announcement, a Bell Aliant spokesperson forwarded a news release to CBC that company issued Tuesday saying it would expand its internet service in more than 25 New Brunswick communities through a program "fully funded by Bell."

A spokesperson for the company said the areas are already serviced by slower internet.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting