Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Francis Drouin announced Monday, November 9, the launch of the expanded Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) to aid regional Internet and cellular service improvement projects across Canada. Drouin cited the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and its proposed Gig project for ultra-fast broadband service as an example of a potential UBF beneficiary.
“Today’s announcement,” stated Drouin, “creates the adequate funding source so organizations like EORN can apply to make this project a reality.”
The original plan for the UBF program called for $1 billion in present and future budget funding to support broadband improvement projects across the country. Funding for the program is now increased to $1.75 billion, with the addition of a Rapid Response Stream application process to fast-track funding approval for “shovel-ready projects” that qualify.
Drouin noted that the pandemic has shown that guaranteed high-speed Internet service is “more critical than ever” now.
“COVID-19 has altered everything about our way of life,” Drouin stated. “It has exposed and compounded existing inequalities and vulnerabilities and has hit rural communities hard. For too many residents of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, lack of access to reliable high-speed internet has a dramatic impact on quality of life. Now, more than ever, everyone needs reliable access to high-speed Internet as we work, learn and keep in touch with friends and family from home.”
EORN officials issued a brief expressing both appreciation and excitement about UBF program announcement.
“Today’s announcement is a critically important step forward in the EORN proposal to undertake our Gig Project,” stated EORN. “This is exactly what $1.6 billion Gig Project would do for Eastern Ontario. The project would see more than 550,000 homes, businesses and other premises receive up to one gigabyte of speed through a fibre/cable connection.”
EORN officials noted the provincial government’s recent announcement of $680 million in new broadband funding support which makes EORN “confident that we are taking big steps forward towards making the Gig Project a reality.”
The EORN Gig Project is a private-public-partnership proposal for enhancing the existing regional Internet setup, including providing high-speed service to all rural areas that do not already have it. EORN is working on getting confirmation of federal and provincial funding for the project and also funding and in-kind support from the private sector.