The Ontario government has kickstarted a pilot project with Hydro One to bridge the digital divide for 1,450 residents in the municipality of Brighton.
During the pilot, Hydro One will use its electric grid infrastructure such as hydro poles to accelerate the development of internet infrastructure in the region. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.
The Ontario government told IT World Canada in an email that the province will commit a maximum of C$6 million to the project. Hydro One will pay for the construction, operation and maintenance of the backhaul network, with support from the province through the Revenue Support Payments that are contingent on the completion and operationalization of the broadband network.
“By leveraging existing infrastructure and removing barriers to high-speed internet expansion, more Ontarians will be able to access better and faster internet services sooner,” said Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure, in the press release.
This pilot project will reduce the need to build out new infrastructure and save time and money, read the release.
Utility companies frequently rent out hydro poles to telecom companies to carry their wires. Each company is responsible for maintaining its own cables.
Ontario’s provincial government, along with the federal government, has announced multiple investment projects to connect all Canadians with high-speed internet. Ontario aims to have all communities linked up by 2025, while the federal government aims to have all Canadians connected by 2030.
In addition to the $2.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund from the federal government, Ontario introduced legislation such as the Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act in 2021 and the Getting Ontario Connected Act in 2022. Overall, the Ontario provincial government has spent more than C$4 billion on developing network infrastructure in the province.
The province also announced a C$24 million fund to bring high-speed internet access to 1,180 households in several rural Ontario regions, including Brooke-Alvinston, Inwood, Oakdale, Oil City, and Pelee Island.
Update March 30, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.: Updated the story with comments from the Ontario government.