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Federal funding to connect 600 rural homes in the area to high-speed internet

'It would be great if we could get fibre to everyone's house but we have to be realistic — that cost is in the billions and billions of dollars.'
2021 03 30 Rota Broadband Announcement
A $2 million rural high-speed internet funding announcement with MP Anthony Rota (centre row, far left) and stakeholders.

Residents of East Ferris and Redbridge are among members of four rural northern Ontario communities who will receive access to high-speed internet thanks to projects supported by the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF).

Nipissing—Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota joined Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré and industry representatives during a virtual press conference, Tuesday, to announce over $2 million in total funding for Vianet, Blue Sky Net, and Bell to bring high-speed internet to a total of 1,257 homes across four communities.

"For the many years that Blue Sky Net has worked to expand broadband in Northern Ontario, we have looked to the federal government for assistance. This project is no different, and with the interest and support of Spectrum Telecom Group (NetSpectrum) at a time when access to broadband has never been more needed, we are grateful once again for this federal support," said Susan Church, Executive Director, Blue Sky Net.

Many Canadians living in rural and remote communities lack access to high-speed internet. Through the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) Rapid Response Stream, the Government of Canada says it is taking immediate action to get Canadians connected to the high-speed internet they need.

The $2 million in funding will connect:

  • 360 households in Redbridge (Blue Sky Net, $386,000)
  • 239 households in East Ferris (Blue Sky Net, $881,000)
  • 482 households in Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation (Bell, $195,000)
  • 176 households in the Killarney region (Vianet, $576,000)

The announcement was made on behalf Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development.

"This is a tremendous announcement for Blue Sky Net and the residents of East Ferris and Redbridge," said Rota. "Broadband Internet has been an essential tool for years and now, more than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how much everyone needs reliable access to high-speed Internet. There has been a dramatic impact on quality of life over the last year and, with today’s announcement, over 230 households in East Ferris and 360 households in Redbridge will soon have access to reliable high-speed Internet so that they can work, learn and keep in touch with their loved ones from home."

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how much Canadians rely on our connections. Now more than ever we need access to reliable high-speed internet as many of us are working, learning, and staying in touch with friends and family from home. 

"On behalf of the Municipality of East Ferris, I want to thank the Government of Canada and in particular Member of Parliament Anthony Rota for this critical investment in our community," said Mayor Pauline Rochefort. "Improving access to the internet has been a priority for East Ferris, and today's announcement is another step forward on this critical journey. We are fortunate to work with partners such as Blue Sky Net and Spectrum Telecom Group (NetSpectrum) and so a very special thank you to all involved in moving this important project forward."

See related story: Speed testing is a helpful step in quest to improve rural internet

And: Louder voices needed for faster internet service

In East Ferris, homes benefitting from the funding are spread across seven country roads, according to Rochefort, and will be equipped with fibre capabilities, while some "wireless backbone" technology will also be used to possibly help other homes with connectivity.

The projects announced Tuesday were approved within five months of the November 2020 formal launch of the $1.75-billion UBF. Projects funded under the UBF, as well as through other public and private investments, will help connect 98 per cent of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026 and achieve the national target of 100 per cent connectivity by 2030.

"Rural broadband is a necessity now. We've changed the way we live and work," noted Vianet's Brian McCullagh, as consumers and the government strive for the 50/10 mbps download/upload minimum target speeds. "This is the way of the future. To have better broadband and be able to live life and be there through the internet is so important."

McCullagh stressed all technologies play a role in expanding coverage. Networks become congested as consumers latch on to whatever works best in their area. He said increasing funding opens up possibilities when creating a network.

"All technologies are good technologies. We need them all, we need fibre, we need wireless, we need satellite, we need everything to solve the problem," he shared. "It would be great if we could get fibre to everyone's house but we have to be realistic — that cost is in the billions and billions of dollars."

Church added, "The Mayor and Council of East Ferris and the citizens who have supported our efforts along the way are to be congratulated for their unwavering determination to bring high speed to their community. We have also appreciated the active support of the Local Services Board of Redbridge that continues to work on behalf of its neighbours to better Internet access in its community."