Pelee Island, Wheatley, and other rural Southwestern Ontario municipalities will have high-speed internet thanks to $24 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments.
Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczk on Tuesday announced 1,180 households would have high-speed internet in the coming years — some as soon as spring of 2023 — as a result of the joint investment in fibre internet.
Communities receiving high-speed internet include Pelee Island, Wheatley, Tilbury, Brooke-Alvinston, Dawn-Euphemia, Enniskillen, Elmdale, Wheatley Harbour, Elginfield, Birr, Clandebove, Denfield, and Lucan.
“For rural communities, including many here in Ontario, not having access to reliable internet has made the impact of this pandemic even more difficult than in other areas in the country,” Kusmierczk said during a virtual news conference.
Pelee Island Coun. Dave DeLellis said high-speed means the difference between keeping the island “in the stone age” and bringing it into the 21st century.
“The community is dying for this connection and has been for some time,” DeLellis said. “It’s a gamechanger.”
During harsh winters on Pelee Island, services like online education and telehealth “are items we cannot live without,” he said. “As the world evolves and modernizes, Pelee would be pushed further and further into the dark ages without this addition.”
In 2020, the federal government launched the $2.75-billion Universal Broadband Fund with goals to connect 98 per cent of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026 and achieve 100 per cent connectivity by 2030. In July of 2021, the federal and Ontario governments announced a partnership to accelerate the installation of broadband infrastructure with an investment of more than $1.2 billion.
The Government of Ontario has committed to bringing high-speed internet access to every region of the province by the end of 2025.
“High speed internet isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity,” said Essex County Warden Gary McNamara. “It allows us to connect each other no matter where we live and it provides us access to limitless education and employment opportunities, not to mention access to online health care.”
He offered kudos to the federal and provincial governments for initiating programs “critical for economic development opportunities for rural and small-town Ontario.”
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Kusmierczyk called the investment a “total team Canada effort.”
“This is a day so many folks have been waiting for and it’s tremendous what we can accomplish when we all work together.”
Canada’s connectivity strategy aims to provide all residents with access to internet download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 10 megabits per second.