Province investing in northern broadband

·2 min read

The provincial government is investing $10.9 million to bring broadband internet to several towns and First Nations communities across northern Ontario. This also includes $1 million investment for First Nation communities in the Rainy River District.

The funding was announced in a release issued on Jan.20. It said that improved internet access will help bridge the digital divide in Ontario and create more economic opportunity for residents and businesses in the north.

The investment is part of Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan and will bring faster internet to more than 7,000 households and businesses across the North.

According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, 12 per cent of household in Ontario which is about 1.4 million people, are underserved or unserved.

The investment will help the Rainy River Future Development Corporation coordinate with Bell Canada to construct a new 22-kilometre fibre backbone network bring access to connect Seine River First Nation, Couchiching First Nation, Rainy River First Nations, Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation, Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation, and Big Grassy First Nation to high-speed broadband.

The additional $1 million investment will improve the current network and support potential future fibre expansion within the communities and is being added by a $268,300 investment from Bell Canada.

"COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the challenges facing our northern and remote communities, including access to reliable, high-speed internet," Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora–Rainy River, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs said in the release."Efficient and modern broadband infrastructure is critical to advancing economic recovery and development in northern Ontario,” Rickford added. “Our government's investment is an important step forward to ensure communities across the North have access to remote education, skills training, and business opportunities." On Nov.4, 2020, the Ontario government announced an investment of $680 million on top of its existing commitment to improve connectivity in the province, leading to an investment of nearly $1 billion over six years.

Ontario has invested in several initiatives to improve connectivity in northern Ontario, including broadband projects through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund corporation and the Next Generation Network Program.

Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times