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$180M in grants to boost local access to high-speed Internet

July 28, 2016   ·   0 Comments

The Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project, designed to bring high-speed Internet to rural parts of Southwestern Ontario, has received $180 million in new provincial and federal funding through the governments’ Small Communities Fund.

Ultra-high speed Internet connectivity has ong been seen as critical to rural economic development and as a result of the grants Southwestern Ontario is closer to seeing the development of a project that will have a major impact on rural Dufferin’s current and future vitality.

The two levels of government have each made $90 million in grants towards the total project cost of approximately $281 million. This investment will support the expansion of access to broadband by delivering fibre optic coverage to over 350 communities with a total population of 3.5 million across Western Ontario, as well as Caledon and Niagara. 

“This is a major victory for all our residents and businesses currently underserviced or with limited access to high speed internet,” said SWIFT Board Chair Gerry Marshall. “I applaud the federal and provincial governments for truly stepping up and supporting small-town, rural Ontarians. The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) created the SWIFT project to connect the region to ultra-high-speed broadband and prepare for ever-growing demand for connectivity,”

“SWIFT was created by the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, which represents 15 counties in southwestern Ontario, with more than three million residents. Today’s announcement demonstrates what’s possible when all orders of government work together and will connect our communities and support important regional economic development for all Ontarians,” said Chair of the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus, Randy Hope (Mayor, Chatham-Kent).

In addition to leadership from the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus and investment from the federal and provincial governments, the Region of Niagara, Town of Caledon and City of Orillia are also supporting the project. SWIFT has received support from the Southern First Nations Secretariat, school boards, colleges, universities and health care organizations.

The project will help southwestern Ontario communities and businesses better compete in global markets, attract new jobs and improve quality of life. It will also allow individuals to use online resources to gain skills and experience.

“This project will bring critical broadband infrastructure to southwestern Ontario. High-speed internet will connect people and businesses to the resources they need to compete in the global marketplace and strengthen our economy,” said Bob Chiarelli, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure.

Dufferin County CAO Sonya Pritchard, SWIFT staff leader,  underscored the importance of connectivity for rural and regional economic development: “In today’s economy, all industries and sectors rely on broadband to succeed. Improved Internet connectivity will drive innovation, remove barriers to economic growth and create jobs.”

Naveep Singh Bains, Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, said that by providing better access to a wider variety of online tools and resources, “we are increasing the potential for economic growth and diversification in these areas, not to mention enhancing residents’ quality of life.”

 “By investing in SWIFT, Ontario will bring high speed internet to residents in more than 300 southwestern communities, creating economic opportunities and ensuring families and businesses across the province have access to this technology,” said Jeff Leal, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

SWIFT aims to create an extensive fibre network that connects the entire region with service ranging from 1 Gbps up to 100 Gbps, using a combination of public and private funding to address gaps in broadband infrastructure that are leaving some communities behind.

SWIFT will build on existing fibre to create a far-reaching regional fibre network, bringing fibre closer to customers and making it easier for ISPs to connect homes and businesses to ultra-high-speed internet. The new funding will trigger private investment from ISPs, who will continue to own and operate their networks and deliver services directly to customers. All ISPs will have equal access to the fibre network, leveling the playing field and creating a more competitive marketplace that will better serve both urban and rural communities.

“SWIFT is forward-looking and future-proof. It is focusing on ultra-high-speed services, rather than funding local internet access in the short-term, with lesser speeds and reliability,” said SWIFT Staff Technical Lead Geoff Hogan, Director of IT, Grey County.

The SWIFT Initiative is based on the principle that everyone in Western Ontario deserves access to high-speed Internet, regardless of the size of their community, their age, education, or where they work. SWIFT will build an affordable, open-access, ultra-high-speed fibre-optic regional broadband network for everyone in Western Ontario and Niagara Region.

Today in London, Ontario a long awaited and hard earned funding announcement was made by Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Singh Bains and Ontario Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli, who each brought $90 million to help the member municipalities of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, the Region of Niagara, and the Town of Caledon fund the $281 million cost of the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) proposal that will bring affordable, high-speed internet service to over 350 communities serving 3.5 million people.

In an emailed letter to the Citizen received Wednesday, former Shelburne mayor Ed Crewson described the grant announcement  as “the culmination of many years of work by many good people such as the current Chair of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus Randy Hope, SWIFT Board Chair Gerry Marshall, and SWIFT Staff Lead and CAO of the County of Dufferin, Sonya Pritchard. 

“During the 2015 federal election campaign, as the Liberal candidate in Dufferin-Caledon, I heard from many people that the lack of access to affordable high-speed internet service was compromising their children’s education and limiting their economic opportunities.  I raised these concerns in Ottawa with the members of the Liberal caucus and that the Liberal Party Convention in Winnipeg and promoted the SWIFT proposal as the best solution.” 

To find out more about the SWIFT initiative, visit www.swiftnetwork.ca or contact Gerry Marshall, SWIFT Board Chair, at chair@swiftnetwork.ca or 705-726-9300 x 1226; Sonya Pritchard at spritchard@dufferincounty.ca or 519-941-2816 ext. 2502, or Geoff Hogan, Technical Lead, at Geoff.hogan@swiftnetwork.ca or 519-376-2277.

         

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