By Chad Ingram
Published May 8 2018
The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus is pleased about a $71 million funding announcement from the provincial government to expand and improve wireless broadband capabilities in eastern Ontario however the project will require much more funding.
In 2017 the Eastern Ontario Regional Network which is owned by the EOWC made funding requests of both the provincial and federal governments to assist with the massive project which carries an estimated price tag of $215 million. A public-private partnership the project will also require partners in the private sector.
Ontario Minister of Rural Affairs Jeff Leal made the official funding announcement on behalf of the provincial government at an event in Belleville on April 23.
“This commitment from the province is a great vote of confidence in the project” EORN chairman Murray Jones said in a subsequent release. “EORN is building on the investment we’ve already made in fibre optics across the region to close the gap in cell services and improve economic growth quality of life and public safety.”
“Funding for this project has been the EOWC’s number one priority” said EOWC chairwoman Robin Jones. “The demand for mobile data is growing exponentially but our region is deeply lacking the needed infrastructure to keep up.”
According to an engineering study commissioned by EORN about a quarter of the area in eastern Ontario where there are homes businesses and major roads is not able to receive cellular services and depending on the carrier about two-thirds of the area does not have adequate capacity to provide reliable quality mobile internet.
Local politicians have long lamented this as an impediment to growth in Haliburton County.
There are still large swaths of Haliburton County without access to reliable high-speed internet. Rather than connecting 95 per cent of homes and businesses in the region an initial EORN project that began in 2010 and was completed in 2015 connected about 86 per cent of them with an approximate 14 per cent coverage gap according to EORN. However many county residents complain about the instability of the internet they receive.
According to a recent press release from EORN those service gaps are a result of “market failure.”
“Rural areas don’t generate enough revenue for cell carriers to build adequate services” the release reads. “The CRTC recently designated both mobile and fixed broadband as basic services for all Canadians. A public-private partnership would reduce carriers’ infrastructure costs creating a stronger business case to improve services and meet the CRTC’s basic services goals.”
There has of yet been no word on federal funding for the project.