A “historic” $1.2-billion agreement between Ottawa and Queen’s Park to expand high-speed internet to all corners of the province by 2025 will include 60,000 rural households in Southwestern Ontario, officials say.
Both the federal and provincial governments announced at the end of July they would share the infrastructure investment equally in an attempt to bring high-speed internet to rural areas of Ontario that struggled as services moved online during the pandemic.
On Friday, what that means for Southwestern Ontario became a little more clear: $252 million officials said will be used to connect tens of thousands of rural residents to faster, more reliable internet over the next four years, including many in Perth County and the surrounding area.
“Many people I represent still lack affordable and reliable high-speed internet,” Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece said in a release. “The pandemic has certainly highlighted the need to fix this but, as we know, it has been a problem for many years. This has long been a major priority for me. Our local municipalities have also been pressing the provincial and federal governments to do more. I congratulate them on their hard work, which is paying off.”
Communities surrounding Stratford have been promised a maximum of $11.6 million, enough to reach an estimated 1,400 homes and business, according to the release. They include Shakespeare, Newton, Gads Hill, Hesson, Millbank, Poole, Amulree, Rostock, Milverton, New Hamburg, Crosshill, Dorking, St. Pauls Station, Linwood, Wellesley and Tavistock.
Elsewhere in the county, Mitchell, Rannoch, Wellburn, Rostock, Brodhagen, Fullarton, Staffa and Dublin will also benefit, according to officials, representing hundreds more.
Perth County Warden Jim Aitcheson welcomed the news this week.
“Anything we can get to upgrade our rural infrastructure on fibre is great,” he said.
Aitcheson is hoping the broadband push will focus on sparsely populated areas of the county, where he described the availability of high-speed internet as “patchy.”
“They’ve got all the low-hanging fruit covered off, so now you keep heading into the more sparsely populated areas, which its going to take some time. It’s going to take some more money, but eventually it’s going to get done,” he said. “This certainly is a big step towards filling those gaps.”
This week’s announcement moves Ontario nearly 40 per cent of the way towards its plan to achieve 100 per cent connectivity for all regions of the province by the end of 2025, officials said. Its part of a $4-billion plan the Ford government has called the largest single investment in high-speed internet in any province in Canadian history.