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.