Ontario unveils COBRA

The Ontario government has launched a new program to bring high-speed telecommunications access to northern and rural communities in the province.

The goal of the Connect Ontario: Broadband Regional Access (COBRA) initiative is to promote local communities over the Internet, provide high-speed connections to core public institutions and improve community-based information and services.

“Communities across this province now have the opportunity to play a part in making Ontario a global Internet and e-business centre,” Jim Flaherty, the minister of enterprise, opportunity and innovation, said of the three-year $55 million project. “Expanding broadband connectivity in rural and northern Ontario will support both regional economic development and make this province a key player in the new economy.”

The program encourages public-private partnerships in creating inexpensive, reliable broadband connectivity. Government costs will be shared with these partnerships, and communities will be expected to get funding from other sources including federal programs.

The program will fund up to 50 per cent of total eligible capital costs for regional infrastructure projects. Partnerships in low density, northern regions also qualify for funding up to $100,000 for business plans.

“Broadband access means that small communities in both rural and northern Ontario can fully participate in the digital economy,” said Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation Parliamentary Assistant Al McDonald. “They will benefit from new and improved services, increased investment opportunities, and business expansion.”