“We’ve got to get going and get this project started,” said J. Murray Jones, chairman for the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN).
The non-profit agency was responsible for developing a region-wide public-private partnership between local government through the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus (EOWC), the provincial and federal governments, and the private sector that resulted in the original Eastern Ontario Broadband Project. That provided high-speed Internet service to a large part of Eastern Ontario, including many rural areas that had lacked Internet service before.
Now EORN is focused on its Gig Project, which would provide ultra-fast high-speed broadband service to 95 per cent or more of Eastern Ontario and also deal with rural areas that either still lack high-speed service or have problems with their existing broadband connection.The project cost is estimated at between $500 million and $700 million, and EORN wants the federal and provincial governments to each commit $200 million to the project.
An EORN brief on the Gig project noted that the funding request amounts to about 5.7 per cent of the $7 billion that represents the combined investment for broadband service improvements allocated the provincial and federal budgets. Jones observed that recent studies show that rural Eastern Ontario contains 30 per cent of all the Ontario households that have either poor Internet service or no Internet service at all.
“We’ve been talking about it (broadband improvement for so long,” said Jones, “and how we’ve got to get going and do it.”
Jones noted that federal government officials, including Maryam Monsef, minister for rural economic development, have indicated “strong support” for EORN’s Gig project funding request.
“But it appears they’re waiting for the province to jump on board,” he said, “and they (Queens Park) have yet to get their foot on the poop deck.”
The EORN chairman observed that the provincial government was “very supportive” of the group’s Cell Gap Project to improve cellular broadband service for Eastern Ontario and eliminate “dead zones” where mobile phones don’t work. Both the province and the federal government provided $71 million to the $300 million project with Rogers Communications serving as the private sector partner.
Jones noted that EORN’s own studies show the Gig Project will have ‘significant benefit” to Eastern Ontario’s economy, helping existing local businesses become more competitive in the global online market and attracting new businesses to the region.
“We’re talking about job creation,” he said. “We’ve proven (on paper) that in five years the federal and provincial governments will get their money back in the form of taxes and reduced government (support) program costs.”
EORN, along with the EOWC and the Eastern Ontario Mayors Caucus, is asking Eastern Ontario residents to contact their MP and MPP about federal and provincial funding support for the Gig Project.
“We can hit the ground running,” said Jones, “and we’ve proven we can do it. We just need them (senior governments) on board.”