Wardens’ Caucus briefs minister on SWIFT broadband project

August 19, 2015   ·   0 Comments

Meeting at Niagara Falls this week, the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) renewed efforts to have ultra-high-speed Internet made available across the region through SWIFT, a $287-million project to be funded by both governments and the private sector.

The Caucus updated Brad Duguid, pro – vincial Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure about the project, which aims to address the region’s long-term readiness as the demand for connectivity grows.

The wardens thanked the minister for his support thus far, as the project tries to pull together nearly $189 million in provincial and federal funding. The balance for the $287 million project will come from municipal and other public and private sector partners.

“The Internet is constantly evolving and changing – and requiring more and more speed, bandwidth and reliability,” said WOWC Chair, Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope. “It’s imperative that our region has the fibre optic foundation needed to access a connected global economy and to deliver effective public services.”

Dubbed SWIFT, the project will connect to and build on existing fibre networks to create a regional fibre backbone that is closer to customers. This will facilitate improved local access to 1G service for the entire region, using a combination of public and private funding.

“Our role will be to direct public funding to address the gaps in broadband infrastructure that are leaving some communities behind, because the market cannot meet their needs alone,” said Gerry Marshall, Warden of Simcoe County and Chair of the SWIFT committee.

The public funding will trigger private investment from ISPs, who will continue to own and operate their networks and deliver services directly to customers. WOWC is committed to working with local and national providers to meet communities’ broadband needs.

Once the network is built, a dedicated service fee will be reinvested into expanding fibre connectivity to everyone.

This self-funding model will help the region keep pace with ever-changing demand and needs.

An external, third-party review by Dr. Reza Rajabiun, a Ryerson University researcher with national expertise in broadband infrastructure and competition policy, has endorsed SWIFT’s approach to building and funding the network.

WOWC is a not-for-profit organization composed of the heads of council from 15 rural municipalities in western Ontario. The SWIFT project will serve an area of more than 3.5 million represented by WOWC, as well as the Region of Niagara and the cities of Orillia and Stratford, who have joined the project. The project is also seeking to work closely with First Nations communities in western Ontario to make sure that they too benefit from the project.

Dufferin Warden Warren Maycock wasn’t at the meeting but praised the project.

“Providing access to high speed Internet service to all residents of Dufferin County, no matter where they live, is a priority for Dufferin County Council,” he said Wednesday.

“To this avail, one of the avenues Dufferin County Council is pursuing is working with the Western Wardens Caucus on the SWIFT project. Hopefully the Western Wardens’ Caucus will be able to convince both the provincial and federal governments to partner with them to bring this initiative to fruition.”

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