County to apply for broadband funding

By Chad Ingram

Haliburton County will apply for provincial funding for a project that would bring internet downloading/uploading speeds of 50 mbps/10 mbps to the area. A staff report from chief administrative officer Mike Rutter received by councillors during a July 22 meeting explained that the provincial government is offering $150 million in grants through the Ministry of Infrastructure for broadband projects and that applications must be done in partnership with telecom service providers.
“The federal government has also indicated that they will be announcing a grant program in the near future” the report reads. “We do not know if the provincial and federal programs will complement one another or if one applicant could apply for funding from both.”

The provincial program would pay for 25 per cent of a project and it’s estimated a project to outfit Haliburton County with 50 mpbs/10 mpbs speeds would cost $55 million. That means provincial funding would cover $13.75 million and federal funding if available the same amount leaving an estimated $27.5 million to the county and a partner telecom company. The staff report also laid out a tentative plan for borrowing over the period of decade to cover those costs.
The localized project would be separate from the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s cell gap project.
“We have been approached by two telecom service providers already and it’s possible that they would have some very interesting projects for our review” Rutter told councillors. His report also recommended the sole-sourced hiring of a consultant to conduct a technical evaluation of proposals and complete the application with the deadline fast approaching near the end of August.

Councillors were unanimously supportive of moving ahead with the grant application and with the sole-source procurement of a consultant.
“As we already know that everybody [dealing] with COVID [protocols] has become extremely aware of connectivity needs so the rush for consultants or people to help in the process the longer we wait the shallower pond we’re going to be fishing in” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin.