Wellington County gets $1-million grant to offer high speed internet

High speed in­ter­net is coming to Wellington County over the next few years thanks to a $1-million grant from the provincial govern­ment.

Mapleton Township Mayor John Green hosted the an­nouncement party at the Alma community hall on June 19, and told the gathering the move “will benefit everyone in Well­ington County.”

Perth-Wellington MPP and provincial Minister of Re­search and Innovation John Wilkinson said the province was giving out 14 grants that day worth $10.1-million, and the local share of $1-million would ensure that every child in Wellington County has equal access to high speed internet.

The county will be working with Everus Communications, of Waterloo, which will spend another $2-million on the project.

Richard Contin, of Everus, said the company has been pro­viding internet service in Well­ington County for five years, and already has 30 towers that help it offer 1,300 customers high speed wireless internet. It plans to use the grant money to erect another 25 to 37 towers he said.

“The intent is to cover at least 80% of the population,” he said, explaining that there will likely be small pockets that, because of the topography, will be difficult to service.

The grant money is through the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, which wants farmers and rural citi­zens to have the same capa­bility for internet as a modern tool as the urban areas have.

Wilkinson said the idea is the enhanced service will turn “miles into milliseconds.”

He told a story of a farmer  he knows who, because of the location of his home, had to drive three miles to take his children to the office in order to give them access to high speed internet.

Wilkinson said in an inter­view that the project began sev­eral years ago when the provin­cial government realized that a large part of the province was without high speed internet. He showed the gathering a map that indicated how far the project has come in supply rural broadband in south­west­ern Ontario, and noted how im­portant for business computer technology has become.

But, he said, it is important for children and others, as a learning and business tool, to have computer access.

“We’re not going to rest until every child, every family and every business has high speed internet.”

Green noted that Puslinch Township, between Guelph and Cambridge, is one area in parti­c­ular that can use the service.

MPP Ted Arnott is pleas­ed with the grant and had sup­ported the county in the project.

“Today we embrace the future,” he said. “Just ten short years ago the internet was a novelty. Today it’s a necessity.”

He said the grants from the upper tier have been for infra­structure, and “this qualifies.”

He saluted county council for seeing the need, and for the staff for the work it did to ensure the funding came to the county in the third round of grants.

Warden Joanne Ross-Zuj thanked county Treasurer Craig Dyer for his work on the pro­ject. She noted that he had been following the provincial pro­gram and “told us when to apply.”

Green pointed out two MPPs from two different poli­tical parties had supported the project to benefit their parts of the riding in Wellington, and, “The way they worked together was impeccable.”

Ross-Zuj said a rural broad­band committee formed by the county identified the need for rural service, and, further, “There was cooperation from every community in Wellington County. Overall, it was a great application.”

At the end of the ceremony to highlight modern techno­logy, the MPPs and county officials posed not with a big Styrofoam cheque, but with their Blackberries.

 The grant is part of the Rural Connections Broadband Program. The province has committed over $27.4-million to 47 projects since 2007 to stimulate the building of broadband infrastructure in rural Ontario. The goal of the program is to help bring broad­band Internet access to rural and remote areas currently un­derserved in southern Ontario.

Broadband combines tele­communications infrastructure and service to deliver more internet information at speeds far greater than dial-up service. Broadband is defined as a high-capacity link between end users and access network suppliers at a minimum download speed of 1.5 megabits per second.

In 2007, eighteen projects marked the first wave of broad­band infrastructure undertaken jointly by rural municipalities and the province. They are now fully operational. In 2008, an­other 15 rural broadband pro­jects were approved.