Rogers Communications Inc. has entered into a public-private partnership to build more than 300 new towers to improve wireless service in underserved parts of eastern Ontario.
About half of the funding for the $300-million project will come from governments at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels for the Eastern Ontario Regional Network‘s (EORN) Cell Gap project.
Rogers will provide the other $150 million and lead the project, which will cover more than 100 municipalities and several First Nations communities.
Construction of nearly 350 new transmission towers will begin this spring and continue through 2025. More than 300 existing towers will be upgraded.
Among the larger cities in the project are Peterborough, Pembroke, Cornwall, Kingston and Belleville, as well as surrounding counties and highways.
Among the First Nations involved are Mohawk communities in the Bay of Quinte area near Belleville and Akwesasne near Cornwall.
The announcement comes as Rogers and its rivals race to update and expand their networks to provide fifth-generation wireless services. The telecommunications giant was selected through a competitive bidding process to identify a telecommunication partner who offered both the expertise and best value for expanded cell coverage.
Created a decade ago by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), the non-profit EORN aims to improve broadband access throughout eastern Ontario, focusing on rural areas. Since its inception, $175 million has been invested to provide 423,000 homes and businesses online services of up to 10 Mbps download.
“The investment that Rogers Communications is making in our region has exceeded our expectations and we look forward to working with their team to strengthen cellular networks across the region,” said J. Murray Jones, chairperson of the EORN and Peterborough County Warden. “We also appreciate the support of our federal and provincial partners. Together we’re building on the investment we’ve already made in broadband infrastructure to deliver value and quality in closing the gap in mobile services.”
Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef, Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, says reliable cell service will lead to economic growth and improve the health and safety of eastern Ontario residents.
“Our community has been firmly behind the EORN cell gap project, and I am thankful to my colleagues in neighbouring ridings for championing it,” she stated. “This project will connect the residents of Eastern Ontario to fast, reliable cellular service. In addition to this, the Government of Canada is connecting Ontarians to high-speed internet by committing over $233 million into 23 projects that will connect 33,649 households across the province. Congratulations to all involved in today’s important announcement.”
Ontario Infrastructure Minister Laurie Scott (MPP Haliburton – Kawartha Lakes – Brock) says the region has “waited long enough” for reliable connectivity.
“That’s why today’s announcement of the partnership between the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and Rogers Communications brings hope and optimism for residents,” she said. “This partnership is one more step towards delivering better connectivity for families and individuals and is an example of the decisive action we’re taking to connect more people.”
Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien, chairperson of the Eastern Ontario Mayors Caucus, echoed the sentiment.
“Members of the Mayors’ Caucus understand that for our region to keep pace with technology, we need to ensure we have not only minimum cell coverage, but enough capacity to meet the rapid growth in demand for mobile broadband,” she said. “The digital economy has never been more critical for our communities to prosper. We are looking forward to seeing robust and reliable cellular services serve our residents and businesses.”
The EOWC consists of the City of Kawartha Lakes and the counties of Peterborough, Northumberland, Haliburton, Hastings, Frontenac, Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, Lennox and Addington, Prescott and Russell, Prince Edward, Renfrew and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
— With files from Global News