High-speed Internet access will be delivered to rural homeowners and small businesses in the Highway 11 corridor around North Bay by early summer.
The last chunk of provincial government funding needed to begin construction and delivery of a $6.5-million broadband connection in the Blue Sky Region was announced by the province in mid-January.
Network partners Blue Sky Net and W3Connex had been waiting on a matching $1-million subsidy from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund which finally came through on Jan. 18.
Blue Sky Net's Project Skywire will connect 117 communities to high-speed Internet in a massive coverage area. It stretches from Mattawa in the east to the limits of Greater Sudbury, south to Georgian Bay and east again to the Highway 11 communities stretching from the Trout Creek-Port Loring area to Marten River.
Together with their vendor partner, W3Connex, they are constructing six new towers to link into 17 existing towers as part of a larger region-wide network, as well as used for local access to residences and businesses.
Blue Sky Net, a community-based IT network operating out of the Blue Sky Economic Development Corporation, had previously secured a $1-million Industry Canada subsidy through its BRAND (Broadband for Rural and Northern Development), a fund earmarked for under-serviced communities.
W3Connex is a consortium of companies based in Mississauga. They are responsible for building the infrastructure and will own and operate the towers.
"It's probably going to impact the small and home-based office (business) the most," says Jeff Buell, a Blue Sky marketing spokesperson, "those people who currently work in locations where high-speed Internet and other telecommunications infrastructure already available.
"What we were hearing from people is that with the service they will have the opportunity to work from home or work more efficiently through the application of the IP (Internet Protocol) wireless network."
For some area forestry companies with cell, land line and Internet access, it will improve their redundant communications ability.
The rest of the project's $4.5 million price tag comes from the private sector, mostly contributed by W3Connex plus in-kind contributions from municipalities of access to land to build the new towers.
Skywire's first phase was scheduled to be completed in February, but has been delayed to early June due to changes in their fibre back-haul provider which required some re-design work on the tower locations, as well as some government funding delays.