Feds investing $71M to improve cellular broadband, connectivity in eastern Ontario

The federal and provincial governments have each invested $71 million in a project aimed at improving cellular broadband in eastern Ontario. Nathan Dennett/The Canadian Press

The federal government is providing $71 million for a project to improve cellular broadband in eastern Ontario, matching a contribution made by the province this spring.

On Thursday, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef announced joint funding for the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s (EORN) mobile broadband project in a release. Ottawa will contribute up to $71 million under the Rural and Northern Infrastructure stream of the Investing in Canada Plan.

In May, the province of Ontario also committed $71 million to the project, while the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) will provide $10 million. Private partners are also funding the project.

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The goal is to eliminate coverage gaps in cellular and mobile services, particularly in rural regions.

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“Having access to the internet is not a luxury in the 21st century. It is a necessity,” Monsef said.

“Our Liberal rural caucus, including MP Kim Rudd and MP Mike Bossio, has been working with EORN and the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus to make this investment in our region a reality. Today, we celebrate this collaboration, the economic growth this investment will bring and all the ways it will make life a little easier for over a million people in our region.”

Rudd, MP for Northumberland-Peterborough South, says the investment will help close the broadband gap.

“We’re now seeing a future where every residence and business in this country, no matter how rural or remote, has a reasonable and reliable rate of internet connectivity,” said Rudd. “This is something we can all be very proud of.”

Phase 1 of the project involves building 317 new telecommunications towers and an additional 32 internet access points to improve overall mobile coverage. Phase 2 will identify the capacity gaps that result from heavy user traffic, upgrade equipment to reduce network overloads and improve service quality in rural communities.

Once completed, the project will improve mobile coverage for more than 1.1 million residents in 102 communities in eastern Ontario, including those in Peterborough County as well as Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations.

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Peterborough County Warden J. Murray Jones, chairman of the EORN, says the new network will help businesses grow and reach new markets, with a potential to create more than 3,000 full-time jobs over 10 years. He also said the improved connectivity will assist people in remote areas in making emergency calls.

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“EORN is building on the investment we’ve already made in broadband infrastructure across the region to close the gap in mobile services and improve economic growth, quality of life and public safety,” Jones said.

“We welcome and appreciate the support of the federal government for this project. Combined with provincial and municipal funding, we can now proceed with the next steps to make improved connectivity a reality for our region.”

City of Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham, chair of the EOWC, says the demand for mobile broadband is growing exponentially.

“But our region is deeply lacking the needed infrastructure to keep up,” he said.

“This project is our top priority because eastern Ontario’s economic future is at stake. We are so pleased that the federal government is joining with the province and municipal government to make this project a reality.”

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Monsef also noted that last month, the federal government launched two new strategies: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy, which commits to connect all Canadians to high-speed internet, and the first rural economic development strategy, which is intended to spur economic growth for rural residents.

“Investments like the one announced today help grow our local economies, build stronger and more inclusive communities and safeguard the environment and the health of Canadians for years to come,” said Monsef.

“By investing in the infrastructure that communities need, our government is creating the conditions so that all Canadians, no matter where they live, can reach their full potential and share in our nation’s prosperity.”

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