The Ontario government will be investing an additional CA$680 million into the province’s network infrastructure in underserved communities and dead zones.
Announced on Nov. 4 by Ontario’s Office of the Premier, the new fund is in addition to the $315 million Ontario had already promised to invest in its telecom and broadband networks and is a part of the Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. On June 3, the Ontario government announced the ICON program, a $150 million investment to bolster Ontario’s network infrastructure in rural communities. The new funding announced yesterday will double ICON’s investment to CA$300 million. Ontario hopes that together with the private sector, the ICON initiative will be able to generate CA$900 million in total partner funding.
Funding will trickle out in waves over the next six years.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 reinforced the need to improve access to reliable broadband and cellular service as more people work and learn from home in order to practice physical distancing,” said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. “By making these investments we will help to ensure every region in the province can participate in the modern digital economy, and contribute to Ontario’s economic recovery.”
IT World Canada reported in June that nearly 12 per cent of households in rural Ontario do not have adequate access to the internet. That figure hasn’t budged since then. The Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure still pegs the number of underserved populations at the same percentage. Moreover, the ministry noted that over 1.4 million Ontario residents flat out do not have access to broadband or cellular access.
The Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan outline also highlighted that 91 per cent of Ontario’s roads are covered by “the latest mobile technology” and that the remaining eight per cent could pose a safety risk in case of an emergency.
In addition to increased funding, the Ontario government says it will be reducing red tapes and regulations that deter private sector investments, and that it will explore new ways to streamline approvals.