For local residents it was nice to see some specifics announced regarding plans to expand high speed internet access in rural Ontario.
A Jan. 20 announcement of contracts to expand high-speed broadband services to nearly 2,900 homes and businesses in Wellington County includes agreements for projects in Mapleton, and Wellington North.
A total of $7.5 million in provincial and federal funding has been awarded by Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) to support four broadband infrastructure projects across 15 under-served communities in Wellington County.
The total value of the projects is approximately $12 million, including nearly $4.5 million in contributions from the service providers.
Contracts were also awarded for projects in Centre Wellington and Guelph-Eramosa.
Monday’s announcement, made with much fanfare by Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Clarke at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association’s annual conference, is part of a $315-million provincial commitment to rural broadband. It is good news for rural Ontarians, including those in our region – as it has been every time it has been announced.
The provincial government originally revealed in May it would provide $12.1 million for the Wellington County projects as part of a contribution of $63 million to SWIFT, a project initiated by the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus (WOWC) to bring broadband to under-serviced areas.
Requests for proposals for the projects were issued in August, at a photo-op held at a rural Minto business, which could no doubt benefit from broadband expansion, where the $12 million figure was again trumpeted. Interestingly, Minto isn’t on the list of project locations announced this week. Perhaps that will be remedied in a future phase of spending?
Re-announcement of previously-allocated funding is a tried and true government practice, and one certainly not limited to the current administration. However it does seem particularly cynical when a government with a reputation for cutting funding takes multiple bows for its occasional spending sprees.
No doubt there will be future photo-ops where this particular funding will be warmed over and served up again, perhaps when the figurative switch is thrown to send some rural region live online.
Certainly due credit should be given to this government for recognizing the importance of rural internet and providing significant funding. The question, of course, is how often?