Seventeen organizations, including some of the biggest names in telecommunications, have received “conditional approval” for 52 projects under Industry Canada’s rural broadband initiative program.
Industry minister Tony Clement said Sunday in Toronto that the projects, which total $76.7 million of the $225 million the Harper government set aside last year to bring broadband to rural and underserved communities.
Some 169,000 households would benefit from these projects, of which the government pays up to 50 per cent of the startup costs.
The announcement comes five days after Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff vowed that a future Liberal government will ensure every Canadian community has high-speed internet connectivity of at least 1.5 Mpbs within three years of being elected, and will expand mobile phone coverage for rural and remote Canada.
There was no explanation in a news release that accompanied the announcement of why the projects had conditional instead of full approval. However, in an interview Clement’s press secretary said contracts would be awarded to the successful organizations on condition they fulfil certain requirements
Among the larger providers is Quebec cable company Videotron Ltee and Barret Xplore of Woodstock, N.B., which specializes in bringing wireless broadband to remote communities.
Other tentative project winners are
–ABC (Allen Business) Communications Ltd. of Kelowna, B.C.;
–Corridor Communications Inc. of Calgary, a fixed WiMax provider;
–Cybernet Communications Ltd. of Smithers, B.C.;
–FlexiNET Broadband Inc. of Cranbrook, B.C.;
–GwaiiTel Society, a broadband provider to ISPs and business serving seven Haida Gwaii communites in B.C.;
–Manitoba NetSet Ltd.
–Naskapi Imuun Inc.
–Northern Broadband Ltd.
–OmniGlobe Broadband Inc. of Stratford, Ont.;
–PCC Communications Inc. of Calgary;
–Whapmagoostui Eeyouch Economic Development Corporation, a Cree community at the mouth of Great Whale River in Quebec.
As part of the government’s 2009-2010 budge the Conservatives set aisde $225 million over three years to fund efforst to extend broadband coverage. The biggest component is the segment dubbed Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians. Last fall it released a list of some 60 areas that needed coverage and invited the private sector to apply for subsidies to fund coverage. Several hundred organizations filed applications by the end of October.
“I am delighted that, as a result of today’s announcement, so many individuals, families and businesses across Canada will soon have access to high-speed Internet service for the first time,” Industry minister Tony Clement said in a news release. “Canada is poised to make great strides into the digital economy of the 21st century, and this news is a major part of our strategy.”
The projects announced Sunday reach communities both big and small because some residences within sizeable municipalites still can’t get broadband. For example, Corridor Communications projects in Alberta not only includes the community of Forty Mile but also the city of Lethbridge.