EORN lobbying for ‘ultra-fast Gig internet’ for area

By Lindsay Advocate

The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) has made a formal submission to the federal and provincial governments seeking support to deliver ultra-fast Gig internet to homes and businesses across the region.

The submission has been sent to federal minister Maryam Monsef, who has responsibility for rural economic development, and Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott, who is tasked with rural broadband matters for the province.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crisis in rural internet access. It has impacted businesses, education, healthcare and government services. The EORN Gig Project offers a comprehensive, long-term solution that ensures the region recovers from the pandemic, supports economic growth and improves quality of life, according to a media release.

“Rural areas are constantly falling behind as demand for broadband grows exponentially. It’s time we fix it for good by building the Gig Project,” said EORN Chair J. Murray Jones, warden of the County of Peterborough. “It’s a lasting investment in our prosperity.”

The project would use a competitive process to choose a telecommunications partner and maximize coverage across the region. EORN seeks to fund the $1.2 to $1.6 billion project through a combination of funding, with $200 million each from the federal and provincial governments and the remainder from the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the private sector.

Both the federal and provincial governments are investing in broadband. The federal government established the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) and the Government of Ontario created the Improving Connectivity in Ontario (ICON) fund. Both funds focus on local projects. EORN is seeking support through a flexible use of these programs, or any other appropriate funding streams.

“We appreciate how committed both governments have been to improving broadband access,” said Debbie Robinson, chair of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC) and warden of Renfrew County. “We all share the same goals, and we look forward to working together on a solution that is both comprehensive and cost-effective.”

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 2 optic backbone and other infrastructure across the region built to handle the speed and capacity of the Gig project. EORN anticipates it could provide up to 95 per cent of the region or more than 550,000 premises with Gig service by 2025-6 if fully funded.

An internet speed of one gigabit per second (1 Gbps or 1,000 Mbps) would provide seamless, reliable connectivity to support and meet growing demand over the long run. It also supports real-time data sharing needed for smart technologies.

It is about 20 times faster than the objectives set by the Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). It 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.

“Given the pace of technological change, this service level is likely to be out of date by the time it arrives,” Jones added.

About EORN
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 will begin during 2021.

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