Government funding expands high-speed internet to Laurel, Salem, Camilla

August 25, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Over 630 families, businesses, and farms are now connected to fibre optic Internet, thanks to a $538,000 investment from the federal and provincial government.

The investment provides the communities of Laurel, Salem and Camilla with high-speed Internet infrastructure, installed by Northern Frontenac Telephone Company (NFTC)

The broadband announcement was made at Dufferin Veterinary Services in Laurel last Friday (Aug. 19) with MPP Sylvia Jones, Brampton East MP Maninder Sidhu, representatives from NFTC and several municipal leaders in attendance.

Deputy Mayor of Amaranth, Chris Gerrits, who spoke at the announcement, said the issue of poor Internet connectivity has really impacted residents in his town and the improvements will go a long way in supporting them.

“In Amaranth, I know of a couple of people there that are retirees, they live in low line areas where line of sight [Internet] service is not available at all,” said Gerrits.

One resident impacted is a widow, who’s kids and grandkids live overseas. She has to sign out a hotspot from her library once a week and schedule calls to speak with them.  

“That’s the only way she can communicate with family, so having high speed fibre will be life changing for her,” Gerrits said.

He also highlighted the significance of having fibre optic infrastructure for attracting investments from the private sector.

Amaranth has 250 to 300 acres of lands zoned for commercial industrial that have sat undeveloped for 30 years. Now there is a commercial development coming, but the developer needed to know high speed Internet was available or on its way to make their decision.

“We’re looking at a development there that is probably going to double the tax base of the township, just based on the 250 or 300 acres of commercial developments,” he noted. “That’s huge for our rural municipality, and that doesn’t even factor in the home-based businesses or the people that are now working remotely, either partially or fully.”

The $538,000 investment in fibre optic infrastructure in Dufferin is in partnership with Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) Inc., a municipally led non-profit broadband expansion project. It’s goal is to connect underserved communities and rural areas in southwestern Ontario to high-speed Internet. Both the federal and provincial government are currently contributing $63 million to SWIFT as part of Ontario’s $4 billion commitment to bring broadband to every region of the province by 2025. More than $225 million has already been invested by the private sector and both levels of government to bring high speed Internet to over 63,000 households and businesses in southwestern Ontario through SWIFT.

“Access to high-speed Internet is essential to ensure that farms, rural residents and businesses have the ability to run their business, attract new customers and employees, and stay competitive in a growing marketplace,” said MPP Jones.

Since the pandemic hit in March of 2020, work-from-home has been on the rise, highlighting the need for reliable, high-speed Internet in rural or underserved areas.

“When people started working remotely, when children were trying to complete their homework remotely, there was lots of keen interest on making sure that they had that reliable use,” said MPP Jones.

“I think we also have to acknowledge that there was a personal side to this. During the pandemic, when we couldn’t connect with our grandparents, when we couldn’t connect with our friends as easily, we relied on the Internet.”

Mono Mayor John Creelman shared his excitement for the SWIFT development, as the project was extended across Highway 10 to reach a portion of Mono that didn’t have access to high-speed Internet prior.

“We’re so happy to see it,” he said. “Even before the pandemic, there was that demand for high speed by all of the home businesses that are out there, and we have so many of them. They’re in occupations that require a high speed and not simply a substandard service that gives you email only, as an example.”’

In addition to Mono, the SWIFT project was extended by NFTC to the Amaranth Municipal Office and Laurel Woods Elementary School, at no extra cost, by finding efficiencies within the project.

Meanwhile, MPP Jones noted the partnership with the federal government for the SWIFT project and the importance of working across party lines.

“I think it really speaks to, when governments work together, who’s the primary beneficiary? The people who are living in the community,” she remarked.

Brampton East MP Maninder Sidhu, who spoke on behalf of Quebec MP Dominic LeBlanc, minister of intergovernmental affairs, said he’s proud of the partnership with the provincial government to bring about the local investment in high-speed broadband infrastructure.

“Our government is pleased to support this project with an investment of over $538,000 alongside the Government of Ontario and… SWIFT to provide residents with enhanced Internet access, to connect with loved ones, customers, and essential services.”

MPP Jones noted there are still some pockets throughout Dufferin that don’t have high-speed internet but the provincial goal is to have everyone connected by the end of 2025.

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