East Ferris dialling up talks of fiber internet connections with Bell

East Ferris wants the government to deliver on its promise for faster internet for all, specifically via a fiber optic connection.

In August, the provincial and federal governments announced more plans to enhance internet connections within rural and northern communities.

A press conference was held on August 6, during which MPP Vic Fedeli mentioned “we’re getting 8,556 of them right here in the riding of Nipissing,” with many allocated for East Ferris.

The news was welcomed by residents and council alike. The East Ferris Internet Advocacy Group, helmed by Michael Blair and Philip Koning, have been pressuring the government for years to help improve area internet.

During the December 14 council meeting, Mathew Henderson, who oversees municipal liaisons for Bell Canada, popped in via web camera to provide an update on the project.

Henderson explained that he was “still limited in what I can share,” about the project, “because we still are negotiating” with the province as per the exact details.

There are many moving pieces, as money is coming from the federal government’s universal broadband fund, the province’s Improving Connectivity for Ontario program, and other funding sources, such as the Broadband and Cellular Expansion Initiative from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.

The universal broadband fund alone is offering $2.75 billion, and $170 million has been earmarked for Northeastern Ontario.

“There’s only so much I can share,” Henderson stressed, mentioning that he will bring more information, including service maps, early in the new year.

Currently, Bell is “looking at over 1,000 households” in East Ferris to install fiber optic infrastructure too.

“We don’t have a complete picture yet as to where exactly we’re going,” he reiterated, “but it is good news,” on the horizon, anticipating “direct fiber right to the house.”

Henderson mentioned upload and download speeds will be “symmetrical” at 1.5 gigabytes.

The infrastructure once installed will be “future proof,” he said. “We’ll do this one time and hopefully it’s good for our kids, and good for our kid’s kids.”

“For us, fiber to the home is very critical,” explained Mayor Pauline Rochefort. “It is very important to our citizens.”

Henderson acknowledged that, but also cautioned that some residents in more rural pockets of the municipality may not receive a direct fiber connection.

“I cannot say that every house in East Ferris will have fiber,” he admitted, adding he can provide more details after negotiations conclude with the government.

Mayor Rochefort mentioned the literature she received from the government promised “connecting 100 per cent of the houses in our area, and that is through the agreement with Bell Canada.”

“That is the expectation in our community,” Mayor Rochefort said, and expectations are “very high.”

“And I’m glad you said that” Henderson said, “and I’m going to show that clip to my partners and the federal and provincial governments” during negotiations.

“We want more” services as well, he said and “we’re eagerly looking at all opportunities to expand fibre to as many homes in Ontario as we can.”

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