Eastern Ontario Business Journal Podcast discusses rural high-speed Internet

High-speed internet access? Doesn’t everyone have that? Well, not if you live in some of the more rural or remote regions of our province. This edition of the Eastern Ontario Business Journal Podcast takes a look at the sometimes thorny issue of connectivity with guests Jim Pine from the Eastern Ontario Regional Network; Joe Hickey, CEO of Rock Networks; and Richard Allen on behalf of Frontenac County. 

The discussion examines what governments of all stripes are doing — or should be doing — to improve rural internet access in Eastern Ontario, what some of the challenges are in getting powerful internet connections out to the countryside, and how the pandemic has changed that conversation in the past two years.

EOBJ asked Steve Clark, MPP for Leeds, Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to participate in the podcast. He was unavailable, but his office provided the following statement:

“Since July 2019, the province has committed nearly $4 billion to bring access to reliable high-speed internet for every community across the province. This is the largest single investment in high-speed internet, in any province, by any government in Canadian history.

“As part of these commitments, in July 2021, Ontario announced a historic $1.2-billion partnership with the federal government to support 58 new projects through the province’s ICON program and the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund. In April 2022, we announced additional joint funding of over $56 million for six new projects that will provide access to high-speed internet to over 6,500 additional homes and businesses.

“We have already allocated more than $950 million to nearly 190 high-speed internet, cellular and satellite projects, to enable access to approximately 375,000 homes and businesses across the entire province and improve cellular connectivity throughout Eastern Ontario.

“In September 2021, Ontario launched a competitive process, led by Infrastructure Ontario, where internet service providers bid for the opportunity to provide access to high-speed internet service for designated areas across the province. This process is nearly finalized, and we expect to announce projects soon. This will have an enormous impact on closing the gap for homes and businesses that remain underserved.

“The Ministry of Infrastructure also created new legislation and other regulatory and policy measures to encourage municipalities and other sectors to speed up the construction of designated broadband projects.

“No homes or businesses will be left behind, and we continue to work on measures to ensure that every home and business gets access to high-speed internet.”