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Serré: Feds’ Universal Broadband Fund a ‘major win’ for area internet connectivity

‘I’m proud our federal government has acknowledged the realities of rural communities’
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(Supplied)

The long-awaited launch of the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) arrived earlier this month. In addition to the $1 billion set aside in budget 2019, a supplementary $750 million was also committed. I’m proud our federal government has acknowledged the realities of rural communities and set aside specific funding streams like the Rapid Response Stream (RRS) that will support local Internet Service Providers (ISP) in Northern Ontario to accelerate the roll out of shovel ready projects. 

This major win can be attributed to Nickel Belt – Greater Sudbury mayors, councillors, Chambers of Commerce, businesses, residents, teachers, students, & not-for-profits who relentlessly expressed the challenges faced due to poor cellular and broadband coverage. It is thanks to your advocacy and your open communication with me that we could continue to put pressure on the Federal government to achieve this milestone. 

I acknowledge the skepticism that many have regarding broadband commitments. Rolling out programs of this magnitude especially in rural areas takes time and it has been immensely frustrating for so many of you. I have heard time and time again from residents in Northern Ontario and have equally impressed upon my government the many concerns shared and the absolute need for action. It is thanks to the constant advocacy that a real plan was designed which comes in the form of the UBF. This commitment and intake of proposals means that we are on track to exceed our goals of connecting 96 per cent of Canadians by 2026 and can instead confidently project that this rate will reach 98 per cent. 

Due to this pandemic, we are relying on digital connection more than ever. Students are learning from home, residents are working from home and we are using technology to keep in touch with loved ones. Businesses are also adapting their operations and are heavily relying on new online market strategies. This is further proof of the importance of accessible, reliable and affordable broadband and cellular service to ensure we can further stimulate economic recovery through this pandemic Canada wide.

I strongly encourage all local telecoms organizations to take advantage of the application window and put in a request for funding before the Jan. 15, 2021 RRS. We’ve have great success before, with over $1 million allocated to improve broadband in St.-Charles. I’m confident this UBF launch will bring positive benefits to our region and address the gaps remaining in Northern Ontario.  This week has been a major source of excitement and optimism for our region. I also encourage residents to visit connectednorth.ca to see which providers service their area. 

Further important details to note about the UBF:

  • $150M Rapid Response Stream: This supports smaller projects that can be implemented quickly with the help of a streamlined application process. Applications are being assessed through a rolling intake process – final deadline for this stream will be on Jan. 15, 2021.

  • $750M Large, High-Impact Projects: This stream will fund transformative projects in size and scope which support a business case that can involve the Canada Infrastructure Bank. In conjunction with low-cost loans through the CIB, this stream will provide grants to further support the business case of a strong project.  Application deadline for this stream is Feb. 15, 2021.

  • $50M Mobile Projects: This stream targets mobile network projects that primarily benefit Indigenous communities, including the deployment of mobile coverage within an Indigenous community or on roads that lead to Indigenous communities. Application deadline for this stream is Feb. 15, 2021.

  • Core Universal Broadband Fund: The remaining UBF projects will support any project, including backbone and last-mile, which connect Canadian households to minimum speeds of 50/10mbps.  

Marc G. Serré,  Nickel Belt MP




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