MPP calls broadband, cell phone funding ‘good news’ for WC

WEST CARLETON — The Ford government pledged $71 million for improved broadband and cell phone service in Eastern Ontario Friday, (May 17) which the riding MPP calls “good news” for West Carleton.

About 10 per cent of rural Eastern Ontario has no cell service. Ontario is committing $71 million to the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s (EORN) project to virtually eliminate coverage gaps in the region. The public-private initiative requires contributions from the federal government as well private sector and municipal partners. Total value of the project is estimated at $213 million and is expected to generate up to 3,000 jobs over 10 years and potential revenues of $420 million.

“Ontario’s government is putting people first by taking a giant step towards improving mobile broadband and curing cellular dead zones in Eastern Ontario today, as the province announced $71 million in funding that will make people safer and open Ontario for business, open for jobs,” provincial staff released in a statement on Friday.

The goal of the project is to bring cell coverage to 99 per cent of the region where people live, work and travel. Unpopulated areas, including forests, swamps and protected lands are not included in that goal.

Kanata-Carleton MPP Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said the announcement is “good news for Internet services in West Carleton,” in a Tweet today (May 21).

“Our government has committed to help people get the broadband and cellular connections they need,” Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton said. “This means there are homes, businesses and major roadways where it is difficult to access the Internet from a smart phone. We all know examples where people are put in dangerous positions because of dropped calls or lost connections during emergencies. This is a matter of public safety and economic opportunity.”

“Too often, Eastern Ontario residents find themselves with no signal or dropped cell services,” said Eastern Ontario Regional Network chair J. Murray Jones. “EORN is building on the investment we’ve already made in broadband infrastructure across the region to close the gap in mobile services and improve economic growth, quality of life and public safety.”

Ontario is hopeful the federal government will commit to funding its share of the project. 

“Last week, the federal Liberals said the people of Ontario’s priorities were their priorities,” McNaughton said. “Well, this is a huge priority in Eastern Ontario. It’s about public safety, economic growth and development and convenience. We are investing in people and building our province’s future.”

In the 2019 Ontario budget, the provincial government committed $315 million over the next five years to regional and shovel-ready projects.