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Bridging Ontario’s Digital Divide

For Ontarians living in northern or rural and remote communities, the digital divide has never been greater. As our technology and the demand for it evolves, the requirement for improved and faster network infrastructure to connect and support this new technology does, too.

On April 12, 2021, the Ontario Legislature passed the Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021, to help speed up construction of high-speed internet projects in addition to a commitment of nearly $4 billion to connect every region in Ontario to reliable, high-speed internet by the end of 2025, making it the largest single investment in high-speed internet, in any province, by any government in Canadian history.

To get work started in these communities, the Accelerated High Speed Internet Program (AHSIP) in particular, led by Infrastructure Ontario (IO), awarded contracts, following an innovative reverse auction process. Eight internet service providers (ISPs) were selected to receive provincial funding to connect up to 266,000 unserved and underserved homes and businesses in as many as 339 municipalities across Ontario.

Fibre and fixed wireless construction work is well underway across the province, with the help of Government’s legislation, resources for constructors, utilities, and local municipalities, such as onboarding webinars, and the availability of IO’s Technical Assistance Team.

In fact, AHSIP recently achieved its first completed project in White River, bringing high-speed internet access to 250 homes and businesses.

“This project is important for IO and for the province because it is solving one of the toughest challenges that we’ve been facing which is the digital divide,” said Ron Jaikaran, Director of Commercial Projects at Infrastructure Ontario.

“Bringing 100% connectivity to all homes and businesses has been a challenge for a long time and it was exacerbated by the pandemic,” added Jaikaran.

“The digital divide has always been a challenge for countries across the world and we’re closing that digital divide by bringing fibre optic connectivity to everybody (in Ontario),” explained Mark Kennedy, Vice President Access Networks Central Canada at Rogers Communications. “There’s a digital economy that comes from having that available – it just expands everything that their citizens can get access to,” noted Kennedy.

Satellite Service

Fiber optic or fixed wireless connections, however, are not viable options to provide high-speed internet for all communities, mainly due to terrain.

To help achieve the government’s goal of bringing high-speed internet access to every community across the province by the end of 2025, on August 30, 2023, the government announced the first competitive process of its kind in Canada, which is intended to select a qualified Satellite Internet Service Provider to deliver satellite internet service to approximately 43,000 homes and businesses.

The Satellite Program procurement process is currently underway and is expected to be completed with a successful satellite ISP announced by summer 2024.

With hundreds of work crews out in communities across Ontario this year and a secured satellite provider on the horizon, Ontarians can be confident that the gap of the digital divide will soon be brought to a close.

Aerial view of Kenora Jail
Exterior view of Humber Meadows Long-Term Care