WELLINGTON NORTH – Rural Wellington North residents may be one step closer to having access to reliable broadband internet.
The township has endorsed Ehtel Networks’ application to the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund in an effort to extend its fibre optic services throughout portions of southern Grey County and northern Wellington County.
On Feb. 22, Wellington North council voted unanimously to support Ehtel’s application to the fund and to provide a letter of support.
“We are very pleased that Ehtel has reached out to the Township of Wellington North and hope that by supporting their application it might result in the dream of fibre-optic service becoming a reality for some of our rural residents as well,” economic development officer Dale Small stated in a report.
Councillor Steve McCabe said, “I think this is some of the most welcome news I have heard in quite awhile, especially when it comes to internet in rural areas.
“This is going to be fantastic, since more and more people are working from home.”
There are over 1,500 rural residences in Wellington North that do not have access to reliable high-speed internet.
The Ehtel project will require over 363 km of fibre optic cables and cost an estimated $12 million.
Small said in the current environment, with people working from home, council has no choice but to try and make this work.
“Rural communities must have access to broadband internet to stimulate economic development in a dynamic and competitive business environment,” he said.
“Our children must have access to learn. High speed internet is not a luxury – it is a necessity.”
This will also be beneficial to farms and rural businesses, said Small.
He added, “The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has also stated that reliable high-speed internet service is vital for modern farms to make business decisions, facilitate marketing of farm products, and operate on-farm technology.”
All of councillors agreed this is a great opportunity, but a few expressed concerns over the cost of the project.
Councillor Lisa Hern suggested it is something the federal and provincial governments should be helping with.
“I think we still need to keep plugging away at our provincial and federal partners for more money because … this is very very expensive, and it doesn’t cover everything,” she said.
Mayor Andy Lennox said he is cautiously optimistic about the project and he fully supports the development.
It is something council has long been advocating for, he said, adding he is also concerned about the substantial price tag that comes with it.
“I think we have to be a little bit cautious and play wait and see and try to do what we can to encourage our federal counterparts to fund this type of application,” said Lennox.
He added he will be making a phone call to local Perth-Wellington MP John Nater to see if he can find a way to help with funding for the project.