Ontario expanding access to the modern digital economy

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The Ontario government is expanding access to reliable broadband and cellular service in underserved and unserved parts of the province. The application intake for the $150 million Improving Connectivity for Ontario program (ICON) opens today. This funding will help drive economic investment and job creation across the province, while allowing more people to work from home more efficiently, engage in online learning, and connect with family and friends.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 reinforced the need to improve access to reliable broadband and cellular service as more people work and learn from home in order to practice physical distancing,” said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. “By making these investments we will help to ensure every region in the province can participate in the modern digital economy, and contribute to Ontario’s economic recovery.”

Any areas across Ontario that do not meet the national standards for broadband speeds would be eligible for provincial funding. Up to 12 per cent of households in the province – mostly in rural, remote or northern areas – don’t have adequate broadband service, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Telecommunication service providers, municipalities, Indigenous communities and non-profits are invited to submit innovative proposals and lend their investment, expertise and experience to improve connectivity in communities across Ontario. The preliminary application deadline for the first intake of the ICON program is August 21, 2020.

The province’s investment of $150 million announced today is part of the $315 million Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. This action plan has the potential to leverage up to $1 billion in partner funding for broadband infrastructure investments.

On June 3, Ontario announced the ICON program, a multi-year plan which aims to support approved projects as early as 2021.

National standards for adequate broadband service are defined by speeds known as 50/10 (50 megabits per second download, and 10 megabits for upload).

Over the past several months, Ontario has partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to leverage $213 million to improve cellular access in eastern Ontario.

The Province is investing in the $190 million Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project to bring high-speed broadband to 50,000 more homes and businesses across Southwestern Ontario.

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