News release: Indigenous people and rural Ontarians to benefit from increased connectivity
January 21, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario (originally news release)
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how much we rely on our connections. Now more than ever, Canadians across the country need access to reliable high-speed Internet as many of us are working, learning and communicating with friends and family from home. Right now, too many Canadians living in rural and remote communities lack access to high-speed Internet. Through the Universal Broadband Fund’s (UBF) Rapid Response Stream, the Government of Canada is taking immediate action to get Canadians connected to the high-speed Internet they need.
Today, Marc G. Serré, Member of Parliament for Nickel Belt, on behalf of the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, announced $269,000 in funding for Blue Sky Net to bring high-speed Internet to the Wahnapitae First Nation community on the northwest shore of Wanapitei Lake, northeast of Sudbury. This project will connect 74 underserved households to high-speed Internet, including 68 Indigenous households.
The $1.75-billion Universal Broadband Fund was launched on November 9, 2020. Its Rapid Response Stream reflects the need to move quickly to address connectivity, making up to $150 million immediately available for ready-to-go projects that can be completed by November 15, 2021. Thanks to this streamlined process, projects that are ready to move forward in the short term can be approved quickly, with construction starting as soon as possible, and more Canadians can be connected faster. The project being announced today was approved within two months of the formal launch of the program.
To facilitate applications for projects like this one, the UBF provides a pathfinder service for applicants, particularly those who need more support to build partnerships, find potential sources of funding and navigate the application process. The pathfinder service ensures that the UBF can meet the needs of all applicants, including smaller applicants such as rural municipalities and Indigenous communities.
Projects funded under the UBF, as well as through other public and private investments, will help connect 98% of Canadians to high-speed Internet by 2026 and achieve the national target of 100% connectivity by 2030.
Today’s announcement builds on the progress the Government of Canada has already made to support Canadians living in rural, remote and northern communities. Since 2016, the federal government has approved over 18,000 infrastructure projects, totalling over $28 billion in federal investments, in communities with populations under 100,000. Of these, 93% have been investments in communities with a population of less than 30,000 people. More than 6,100 kilometres of highways and roads and 103 bridges have been built, repaired or upgraded in rural communities, and more than 3,134 projects are providing rural communities with access to cleaner, more sustainable sources of drinking water. To address homelessness and the need for affordable housing, 1,416 projects have been approved, delivering more than $401 million to rural communities across the country.
“High-speed Internet service is key to the success of residents in rural regions of Ontario. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted to all of us how important it is to be able to access high-speed Internet. Today’s investment will improve broadband connectivity for 74 households in the Wahnapitae First Nation community. It will help create jobs, increase health and safety, and ensure a stronger economic recovery for rural Ontarians. It is one of many projects our government is undertaking to ensure that every Canadian has access to the high-speed Internet they need.”
– The Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development
“This important high-speed Internet investment of nearly $270,000 is incredibly welcomed and will positively impact residents of Wahnapitae First Nation. In order to drive economic and social prosperity, it is important to encourage local Internet service providers to submit proposals and access historic federal UBF funding to get shovel-ready projects to fruition. Looking forward to future collaborations with municipalities, First Nation communities, organizations and local telecoms providers to ensure Greater Sudbury communities are connected with affordable and accessible broadband. Congratulations to Chief Roque, council and residents at Wahnapitae First Nation for their successful collaboration with Blue Sky Net and Spectrum Group on this initiative.”
– Marc G. Serré, Member of Parliament for Nickel Belt
“High-speed Internet access is the cornerstone of modern success for any community, which is why Wahnapitae First Nation has been endeavouring for some time to improve such services. We deeply appreciate this funding, as this fibre project will have a significant impact on our community members’ quality of life while providing them with much greater access to a broad range of transformative opportunities. We’re truly excited to see this move forward, and our profound thanks go out to MP Marc G. Serré, his staff, as well as Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation and Spectrum Group for their work to make this initiative a reality.”
– Chief Larry Roque, Wahnapitae First Nation
“For the many years that we have worked to expand broadband in northern Ontario, we have looked to the federal government for help. This project is no different and, with the support of Spectrum Group, at a time where access to broadband has never been more needed, we are grateful once again for this support.”
– Susan Church, Executive Director, Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation
“Spectrum Telecom is proud to work with the Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation to expand and improve rural broadband Internet in the Wahnapitae First Nation. This project could not proceed without the timely contributions from the Universal Broadband Fund, as well as the tireless work of Blue Sky Net.”
– Jason Bionda, Vice-President, Broadband Division, Spectrum Group
- Canada’s Connectivity Strategy aims to provide all Canadians with access to Internet speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download / 10 Mbps upload.
- Applications to the Universal Broadband Fund are being accepted until 3:00 p.m. (ET) on February 15, 2021.
- The UBF is part of a suite of federal investments to improve high-speed Internet. The suite includes the Connect to Innovate program, which is expected to connect nearly 400,000 households by 2023, and the recently announced $2-billion broadband initiative from the Canada Infrastructure Bank.