The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how much we rely on our internet connections, making access to fast and reliable internet service even more critical. For too long, many rural Canadians have lacked access to high-speed internet, impacting their ability to work, learn and keep in touch with family and friends. The pandemic has made addressing this divide even more urgent. That’s why the governments of Canada and Ontario are accelerating their investments in broadband infrastructure.
Today, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Member of Parliament for University–Rosedale; the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development and Member of Parliament for Peterborough–Kawartha; the Honourable Kinga Surma, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure and Member of Provincial Parliament for Etobicoke Centre; and Dave Smith, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (Northern Development and Mines) and to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Member of Provincial Parliament for Peterborough–Kawartha, announced a historic agreement to bring high-speed internet to nearly 280,000 rural Ontario households in hundreds of communities across the province.
Under this agreement, the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario have partnered to support large-scale, fibre-based projects that will provide high-speed internet access to all corners of the province by 2025. This historic agreement is being made possible by an equal federal-provincial investment totalling more than $1.2 billion.
In addition, the Canada Infrastructure Bank is assessing opportunities proposed through the Universal Broadband Fund to provide additional financing on a project-by-project basis toward significant expansion of broadband in partnership with private and institutional investors.
Canada-wide, more than 890,000 rural and remote households are on track to be connected to high-speed internet as a result of federal investments. At the end of March 2021, 175,000 rural and remote households had been connected to high-speed internet under projects supported by the Government of Canada. By the end of this year, over 435,000 households will be connected thanks to support from the federal government.
This investment represents a concrete step forward that will move Ontario almost 40% of the way in its ambitious plan to achieve 100% connectivity for all regions in the province by the end of 2025. This investment builds on Ontario’s recently announced investment of up to $14.7 million for 13 new projects under the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program. This will provide up to 17,000 homes and businesses with access to reliable high-speed internet and builds on a range of provincial initiatives under way that will connect another 70,000 homes and businesses.
Also part of Ontario’s plan to achieve 100% connectivity is a recently announced innovative procurement process that is being used to help connect the vast majority of the remaining underserved and unserved communities. Procurement under this delivery model, led by Infrastructure Ontario, will begin later this summer. Together, these initiatives are part of Ontario’s plan to help bring reliable high-speed internet to more communities across Ontario.
Today’s announcement builds on the progress the governments of Canada and Ontario have already made to improve critical infrastructure in Ontario. This includes leveraging over $30 billion in federal, provincial and partner funding for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). This investment supports over 265 local transit projects; 140 projects in rural and northern areas; over 70 green infrastructure projects; and over 270 community, culture and recreation projects. Also, as part of ICIP, Ontario launched the COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure stream with combined federal and provincial funding of $1.05 billion. This includes up to $250 million in federal and provincial funding for municipalities to address critical local infrastructure needs to improve health and safety.