Broadband project for Leeds and Thousand Islands area gets cancelled

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The township has cancelled its plan to construct a high-speed broadband network for the region after what seems to be a problem with the application process – Aug 27, 2021

The pandemic has meant virtual learning for many parents across the country. But for those in many rural areas, internet is anything but dependable.

“It is huge. I mean, internet is a huge factor,” says mother of four Angela Kelman.

Read more: Internet test results for Ottawa show many users could not access minimum speeds needed for everyday use

The Lyndhurst resident understands internet challenges that come with living in the countryside.

“It can be very dependent on weather, it can be dependent on foliage on trees,” she says. “If you’re getting a satellite signal of some sort.”

To solve the problems, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands has spent the last two years working on accessing government funds to install a broadband internet network for residents.

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“We needed to put a plan in place, locally, that would service as many of our residents as possible,” says Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke of the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands. “Rather than cherry picking or picking areas that have more density, which is what internet service providers have done in the past.”

But the mayor now says that the township will miss out on access to provincially administered funding for rural broadband improvements, which would have made life a lot easier for many of the township residents.

“It’s not acceptable. We had a plan ready to go, and the province changing the way that the funding is distributed has basically ended that,” says Smith-Gatcke.

Global News reached out to the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure, which is responsible for the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program who say in a statement, “We have a plan in place to provide access to 50/10 high-speed internet to 100 percent of households in Ontario by the end of 2025.”

This would mean 50 megabits per second download speed and 10 megabits per second upload speed.

Read more: Internet test results show many could not access minimum speeds, including Hamilton-area

The ministry also claims that the township missed two deadlines to apply for the ICON program, which passed earlier this summer.

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Smith-Gatcke says she was told there would be a second deadline in September, but the province says that’s not the case.

“And we are now at the mercy of when they finish their reverse auction and get around to wiring our township” says the township mayor. “And, I’m hesitant to say that will happen in short order.”

Meaning families like Kelman’s will have to continue to rely on the unreliable signal.

“People in cities take it for granted. And in rural areas you can’t do that,” says Kelman.

The Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands may now be stuck waiting for a new opportunity to improve their broadband infrastructure, hoping that the application preocess goes more smoothly.

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