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Provincial investment to boost rural, remote access to broadband and cellular

Submissions open to telecom companies, municipal governments, First Nations, and non-profits
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The province has announced a $150-million investment to improve broadband and cellular service in rural, remote and underserved areas of Ontario.

Under the Improving Connectivity in Ontario (ICON) program, applicants – telecom companies, municipal governments, First Nation communities, and non-profits – can submit proposals for broadband and cell expansion through the province.

Ontario will fund a portion of each approved project.

"By doing their part and staying home to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the people of Ontario have demonstrated the need to be connected to learn, work, and run their businesses," Laurie Scott, minister of infrastructure, said in a June 3 news release.

"It appears that functioning remotely will continue to be a regular way of life for many in this new environment, and fast reliable Internet will be critical. The ICON program is an important step towards bridging the digital divide in Ontario."

According to the Canadian Radio-televition and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), as many as 12 per cent of Ontario households – mostly in rural, remote or Northern areas – are underserved or unserved.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that connectivity is not a luxury – it’s a social, cultural and economic lifeline,” Parry Sound Mayor Jamie McGarvey, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), said in the release.

“We welcome the launch of this broadband and cellular infrastructure program. We look forward to seeing it implemented as quickly as possible to connect homes and businesses that lack adequate service.

“Municipal governments will continue to work with other governments and stakeholders to find solutions that will deliver affordable, reliable access to broadband across Ontario.”

The ICON program is part of Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan, a $315-million government initiative.