Following up on a recent $12-million investment in Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) to bring better internet connections to underserved rural parts of the region, the province this week announced it had awarded contracts to carry out the expansion.
Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris was joined by Randy Pettapiece, parliamentary assistant to the minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, as well as regional MPs and councillors in announcing agreements had been signed with those companies who responded to requests for proposals (RFPs), and work was going to start in 2021 to bring internet to more people.
“We all know reliable high-speed internet is essential for life in the 21st century. Over the past few years, I have heard from residents of Wilmot, Wellesley, Woolwich and North Dumfries about how their current service leaves them lagging behind. Especially this past year as work, education and connecting with family and friends have moved almost entirely online,” said Harris. “Back in June with our township mayors I announced the launch of RFPs with $11.9 million through SWIFT to expand rural broadband infrastructure across Waterloo Region…[This] is a huge milestone. Shovels will soon be in the ground to bring broadband access to more than 1,000 families and businesses from Maryhill to Weissenburg, Haysville, Clyde and St. Agatha.”
He says the vision for the government is to have every home, business and farm in the region and across the province connected to the internet, this is why they are investing $680 million – in addition to an original $350 million investment – to expand broadband.
Through the projects announced this week, an estimated 1,000 homes and businesses will be connected to the internet by the time work is completed.
In total, the projects will cost $11.6 million to complete. That work is part of a larger five-year broadband and cellular action plan, which is expected to generate more than $1 billion in total investments.
Regional Chair Karen Redman said residents are very appreciative of the work being done, and that people from all four townships will benefit.
“Modern internet infrastructure is more important than ever for all regional residents. Whether it’s for home businesses, for people working at home, or those doing online education, increased access to broadband will help with the economic recovery now and provide more opportunities for growth in the future. Waterloo Region consists of three cities and four rural townships, so we’re a diverse region with a variety of infrastructure needs. SWIFT’s five fibre-to-home projects will bring high-speed internet to more than 1,000 underserved homes and businesses in all four townships, Woolwich, Wellesley, Wilmot and North Dumfries,” she said.
The federal government is also providing more than $63 million towards improving internet within southwestern Ontario.
In 2017, the region signed on to be a funding partner alongside 20 other municipalities to the tune of $2.2 million.
SWIFT has awarded $7.8 million in federal and provincial funding to support five projects that will collectively service 130 kilometres in underserviced rural roadways.
Work is estimated to begin next April, with service expected to be available by July 2022.