(ESSEX, ON) – Ultra-high speed Internet connectivity is critical to rural economic development and Southwestern Ontario is another step closer to seeing the development of a project that will have a major impact on the region’s current and future vitality.
Yesterday, at the London Roundhouse in London, the governments of Canada and Ontario announced they are investing in the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project with contributions of $90 million each towards the total project cost of approximately $281 million.
This investment will support the expansion of access to broadband by delivering fibre optic coverage to over 350 communities with a total population of 3.5 million across western Ontario, as well as Caledon and Niagara.
“This is a major victory for all our residents and businesses currently underserviced or with limited access to high speed internet,” said SWIFT Board Chair Gerry Marshall. “I applaud the federal and provincial governments for truly stepping up and supporting small-town, rural Ontarians. The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus created the SWIFT project to connect the region to ultra-high-speed broadband and prepare for ever-growing demand for connectivity,”
In addition to leadership from the WOWC and investment from the federal and provincial governments, the Region of Niagara, Town of Caledon, and City of Orillia are also supporting the project. SWIFT has received support from the Southern First Nations Secretariat, school boards, colleges, universities and health care organizations.
“SWIFT was created by the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, which represents 15 counties in southwestern Ontario, with more than three million residents,” said the chair of the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus, Chatham-Kent mayor Randy Hope. “Today’s announcement demonstrates what’s possible when all orders of government work together and will connect our communities and support important regional economic development for all Ontarians.”
The project will help southwestern Ontario communities and businesses better compete in global markets, attract new jobs and improve quality of life. It will also allow individuals to use online resources to gain skills and experience.
“This project will bring critical broadband infrastructure to southwestern Ontario. High-speed internet will connect people and businesses to the resources they need to compete in the global marketplace and strengthen our economy,” said Bob Chiarelli, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure.
SWIFT Staff Lead Sonya Pritchard, the CAO of Dufferin County, underscored the importance of connectivity for rural and regional economic development.
“In today’s economy, all industries and sectors rely on broadband to succeed,” Pritchard said. “Improved Internet connectivity will drive innovation, remove barriers to economic growth and create jobs.”
SWIFT aims to create an extensive fibre network that connects the entire region with service ranging from 1 Gbps up to 100 Gbps, using a combination of public and private funding to address gaps in broadband infrastructure that are leaving some communities behind. SWIFT will build on existing fibre to create a far-reaching regional fibre network, bringing fibre closer to customers and making it easier for ISPs to connect homes and businesses to ultra-high-speed internet.
The new funding will trigger private investment from ISPs, who will continue to own and operate their networks and deliver services directly to customers. All ISPs will have equal access to the fibre network, leveling the playing field and creating a more competitive marketplace which will better serve both urban and rural communities.
The SWIFT Initiative is based on the principle that everyone in western Ontario deserves access to high-speed Internet, regardless of the size of their community, their age, education, or where they work. SWIFT will build an affordable, open-access, ultra-high-speed fibre-optic regional broadband network for everyone in western Ontario and the Niagara Region.