Ontario premier reveals $315M plan to improve internet, cellphone service

Premier Doug Ford speaks during a funding announcement for rural broadband in Lucan, Ont., Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Geoff Robins / The Canadian Press

Ontario Premier Doug Ford made a stop in Lucan, Ont., on Tuesday to reaffirm his government’s plan to provide better internet and cellphone service for less-serviced parts of the province.

Joined by cabinet ministers Laurie Scott, Ernie Hardeman and Monte McNaughton, Ford announced a $315-million plan set to be rolled out over the next five years that is intended to expand and improve service for rural and remote communities.

“Twelve per cent of Ontario communities don’t have access to fast, reliable and affordable internet and cell service,” Ford said.

“I was driving up here and I tried to make a phone call and I couldn’t get cell service.”

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The plan, originally announced in the 2019 Ontario budget, intends to invest $315 million over the next five years for broadband and cellular expansion.

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The investment includes a $150-million commitment for a new broadband fund intended to leverage private-sector funding along with support from other levels of government.

The fund, set to begin between 2020 and 2021, intends to drive investment and expansion to the communities targeted by the service improvement plan.

Other parts of the plan include a $71-million commitment to a network improvement project for eastern Ontario as well as up to $63.7 million in funding for a regional broadband project in southwestern Ontario.

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Ford told reporters the plan will generate “more than $1 billion in broadband and cell infrastructure improvements.”

The plan is also expected to improve service for up to 220,000 homes and businesses, Ford added.