KAWARTHA LAKES-The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) is seeking federal and provincial support to deliver ultra-fast, Gig internet to homes and businesses in the region through a $1.6 billion public-private partnership.
Officials with EORN say the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crisis in rural internet access and it has impacted businesses, student learning, healthcare and government services. The EORN Gig Project aims to fix the issue with a comprehensive solution that ensures the region recovers from the pandemic, supports economic growth and helps build vibrant communities for the long term.
“This would be a game-changer for eastern Ontario to attract and retain businesses and residents, and to compete globally over the long term,” said Andy Letham, Chair of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus.
An internet speed of 1 gigabit per second (1 Gbps or 1,000 Mbps) would provide seamless, reliable connectivity to support and meet growing demand over the long run while also supporting real-time data sharing needed for smart technologies according to EORN.
“Demand for broadband is growing exponentially. Half-measures and baby steps won’t get us there. We need along-term solution,” said EORN Chair J. Murray Jones. “The EORN Gig Project is a lasting investment in our prosperity.”
EORN would seek to fund the project through a combination of funding from the federal and provincial governments, loans from the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the private sector.
The Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload internet speeds as a minimum basic service level. Without additional public investment, it is unlikely that parts of eastern Ontario would reach these service levels before 2030. The average global broadband speed in 2020 is 92 Mbps and is projected to reach 110 Mbps by 2023, according to the Cisco Annual Internet Report.
“Asking rural customers to settle for the minimum level of service when urban residents and businesses currently enjoy far greater speeds is just not acceptable. Our residents and businesses need to be on the sameplaying field as those in towns and cities,” said Jones.
The EORN Gig project anticipates future needs for an investment that would last a generation by delivering speeds 20 times the minimum standard. They say the project has the potential to serve as a model for regions across Canada.
Delivering Gig service generally involves a fibre optic or cable connection to the home or business. The EORN Gig Project leverages previous investments in infrastructure and services. This includes a fibre optic backbone and other infrastructure across the region built to handle the speed and capacity of the Gig project .
“While the EORN Gig Project represents a major investment by the public sector in partnership with the private sector, it’s necessary infrastructure for the future of education and training, and for the future of businesses in rural communities. Without this investment, the knowledge and skills necessary to prosper in the new economy will be compromised for those who don’t have broadband access, and opportunities in commerce – for buyers and sellers – will be hindered.” Maureen Adamson, President, Fleming College
EORN, a non-profit created by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), works with governments and community organizations to improve and leverage broadband access to fuel economic development and growth.
EORN is currently working on a $213 million project, funded by public and private sector partners, to improve and expand cellular services across the region. Building on that project is expected to begin in early 2021.
The EORN Gig Project would serve a geographic area that includes 13 municipal members of EOWC, including:
- County of Frontenac
- County of Haliburton
- County of Hastings
- City of Kawartha Lakes (single tier)
- County of Lanark
- United Counties of Leeds and Grenville
- County of Lennox and Addington
• County of Northumberland
• County of Peterborough
• United Counties of Prescott and Russell• County of Prince Edward (single tier)
• County of Renfrew
• United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
Eastern Ontario is home to more than one million people spread out over 50,000 square kilometers, about the size of Nova Scotia. Nearly 103,000 small and medium-sized businesses operate in rural eastern Ontario. Almost sixty percent of those responding to a survey by the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council said broadband is the number one priority their business.
“In a few short months, robust online connectivity has become mission-critical for nearly every business. Digital technology is driving everything from new product or service development, to marketing, operations, and attracting skilled employees. Online learning is key to maintaining a skilled, resilient workforce. That is why the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council believes that the EORN Gig Project is thevery foundation of regional economic development.” said Kathy Wood, Project Coordinator for Eastern Ontario Leadership Council.