Ontario investing $150 million to improve broadband, cell service for rural communities

Jun 3 2020, 10:13 am

Ontario has announced it is investing $150 million in “reliable broadband and cellular service.”

According to the province, this funding will help create even more economic and educational opportunities in rural, remote, and underserved areas of the province.

“As we carefully restart the economic engine of Canada, every region and every community will play a role in bringing jobs and prosperity back to our province,” said Premier Doug Ford.

“By investing in reliable broadband and cellular service, we are helping to create greater opportunity for our families, farmers, and small business owners in rural and remote areas of this great province.”

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, according to the province.

“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 Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott. “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.”

The province said as many as 12% of households in Ontario are underserved or unserved, mostly in rural, remote or Northern areas.

And with Ontario’s education now online, it is an important component of the province’s plan.

The provincial government recently called on the federal government to take immediate action to improve Internet connectivity for Ontario students.

“Access to high-speed Internet is foundational to our young people’s success in learning, working, and innovating, today and into the future,” said Minister Stephen Lecce.

“Our government is taking action by connecting all schools to broadband, starting with high schools this September 2020 and elementary schools by September 2021. It is also why we are calling on the federal government to step up their investment to connect the next generation of thinkers and workers to the modern and digital economy.”

On Tuesday, Ontario extended the province’s state of emergency for another 28 days, until June 30.

Ford said that this doesn’t mean the reopening of the economy is on hold, and that the province will continue to look into a regional approach.

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