Application for Ontario’s $150 million fund to improve rural area network recently opened.
Eligible applicants include telecom companies, municipal governments, first nation communities, and non-profits. Any area in Ontario that does not meet the national broadband standards would be eligible for funding.
The $150 million fund is the first phase of the Up to Speed: Ontario Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. With the plan, Ontario hopes to increase reliable connectivity to not just broadband internet, but also IoT in industries like farming, agriculture, banking, and autonomous vehicles. In total, the program will invest $315 million into improving rural network infrastructure.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 reinforced the need to improve access to reliable broadband and cellular service as more people work and learn from home in order to practice physical distancing,” said Laurie Scott, minister of infrastructure, in a July 9 press release. “By making these investments we will help to ensure every region in the province can participate in the modern digital economy, and contribute to Ontario’s economic recovery.”
The Up to Speed: Ontario Broadband and Cellular Action Plan is part of the Improving Connectivity in Ontario (ICON) program announced early last month. By partially funding approved projects, the program has the potential to raise up to $500 million in total partner funding to improve the telecom infrastructure in Ontario.
Canada’s underserved rural area network direly needs attention. The national standards for adequate broadband service are defined as 50Mbps download and 10Mbps upload. Almost 12 per cent of households in Ontario does not have access to this level of service. Additionally, 10 per cent of rural Eastern Ontario does not have cell service.