Bridge hopes broadband expansion turning the corner in rural Ontario

MINTO – Mayor George Bridge said he is disappointed Minto was not among the initial municipalities where  projects to expand high-speed broadband services were awarded on Jan 20.

However, he expressed optimism the announcement is just the beginning of rural broadband expansion.

The contracts to bring high-speed internet services to nearly 2,900 homes and businesses in Wellington County includes agreements for projects in Mapleton, Wellington North, Centre Wellington and Guelph-Eramosa.

A total of $7.5 million in provincial and federal funding was awarded by Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) to support four broadband infrastructure projects across 15 under-served communities within Wellington.

The total value of the projects is approximately $12 million, including nearly $4.5 million in contributions from service providers.

Bridge, who has worked as part of the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus over the past several years to help get the SWIFT program established, advised town council at the Jan. 21 meeting that “Minto didn’t get any this first round.”

However, he pointed out, “We always knew we couldn’t build everybody’s fibre optics tomorrow. That’s a $4-billion build-out for southwestern Ontario.

“But this is a model that works,” Bridge continued. “We have three pilots (projects) in Wellington and the government loves the model now.

“So now that we have the model there I think new money coming from the federal government and the provincial government will actually flow through SWIFT.”

Bridge noted the business model involves third party service providers paying up to a third of the cost of delivering broadband to the selected under-serviced areas.

“I’m really hopeful that this is turning the corner for high speed internet because we cannot survive in rural Ontario without high speed internet,” said Bridge.

“It’s not all about Netflix. It’s about working your robots for your dairy operations, it’s about kids having the proper schooling because they don’t have to come into Tim Hortons or McDonald’s to get wi-fi if they’re out in the country.”

The new projects will deliver the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) set megabits per second upload and download rate of 50/10, and in most areas internet speed up to one gigabit per second.

The projects are part of SWIFT’s $209-million southwestern Ontario broadband expansion plan.

North Wellington Community News