THUNDER BAY — More than 16,000 households are expected to secure high-speed internet access thanks to over $61 million in joint federal-provincial funding.
The governments say that will benefit 47 rural Ontario communities and three First Nations in Northern Ontario.
Leaders announced the funding on Friday for six projects by Bell Canada, the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre, and Keewaytinook Okimakanak.
The Innovation Centre says that will bring Tbaytel fibre service to over 2,600 households in the Township of Conmee, Township of Gillies, Township of O’Connor, Municipality of Neebing, Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge and the Municipality of Shuniah.
That project accounts for nearly $36 million of the funding announced Friday, the centre said.
Another $1.3 million of the government funds will support a $1.8 million expansion of fibre internet to up to 691 households in Ignace. Celerity Telecom, the corporate partner on the project, will invest up to an additional $207,000.
A partnership with Bell Canada will bring high-speed internet to Manitouwadge, Hornepayne, and a number of Greenstone-area communities including Geraldton, Longlac, and Beardmore.
A partnership between K-Net Mobile and Keewaytinook Okimakanak will bring service to Frenchman’s Head, Kejick Bay, and Whitefish Bay.
Jeff Coull of the Innovation Centre said in a statement the agency had struggled to entice telecoms to enter the market in small communities like Ignace.
“This funding announcement is the culmination of many years of work,” he said. “NOIC has issued Expressions of Interest and Requests for Proposal for the Ignace area for many years, trying to find a vendor partner. Unfortunately, the business case wasn’t there, and no vendors expressed interest until we met with the Celerity Telecom team.”
Minister of Indigenous Services and Thunder Bay–Superior North MP Patty Hajdu called access to high-speed internet a necessity in the 21st century.
"High-speed internet service is essential to the success of everyone living and working in rural communities across Ontario,” she said in a statement. “Today’s investment will help create jobs, improve access to health care and online learning services, and keep people connected to their family, friends and loved ones.”
The funding comes out of a partnership the two levels of government announced in 2021, that will see joint spending of more than $1.2 billion, intended to provide high-speed Internet access to more than 280,000 households and businesses across Ontario.
That will help meet federal targets of ensuring 98 per cent of Canadians have access to high-speed connections by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.
The federal government says 93.5 per cent of Canadian households already have access to high-speed internet or are targeted to receive access through existing commitments, up from 79 per cent in 2014.