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Ontario invests $150M in broadband and cell service for rural communities

The funding will help bridge the gap currently faced by businesses in rural, remote and underserved areas of the province, including many agriculture businesses.


June 4, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

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The Ontario government is investing $150 million in broadband and cellular service. This funding will help create more economic and educational opportunities in rural, remote and underserved areas of the province.

This announcement is part of the province’s $315 million initiative called Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan.

The new Improving Connectivity in Ontario, or ICON, program, when leveraged, has the potential to result in an investment of up to $500 million in total partner funding to improve connectivity in underserved and unserved areas.

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Applicants, including telecom companies, municipal governments, First Nation communities, and non-profits, will be invited to submit innovative proposals and lend their investment, expertise and experience to improve connectivity in communities across Ontario. The province will fund a portion of each approved project.

“By doing their part and staying home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the people of Ontario have demonstrated the need to be connected to learn, work, and run their businesses,” said Laurie Scott, minister of infrastructure, in a released statement. “It appears that functioning remotely will continue to be a regular way of life for many in this new environment, and fast reliable Internet will be critical. The ICON program is an important step towards bridging the digital divide in Ontario.”

As many as 12 per cent of households in Ontario ― mostly in rural, remote or Northern areas ― are underserved or unserved, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The ICON program is one of several activities underway to expand access to mobile broadband and high-speed Internet services in the province. Over the past several months, Ontario has partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to eliminate cell service coverage gaps in eastern Ontario.

As part of a $190 million project to bring high-speed Internet to thousands of homes and businesses throughout Southwestern Ontario, the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) has awarded contracts in Lambton, Wellington and Norfolk counties.

Ontario has also invested in initiatives to improve connectivity in Northern Ontario, such as a project that will connect five remote Matawa-member First Nation communities, and investments in broadband projects through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Next Generation Network Program.