PETERBOROUGH COUNTY, ON, Sept. 24, 2020 /CNW/ - The federal Throne Speech yesterday acknowledged the importance of broadband to Canada's economic recovery and for better access to critical services like health care. The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) is hopeful it will lead to immediate investment in broadband infrastructure.
"Already, our region has lost more than 87,000 jobs and almost $5 billion in GDP due to the pandemic. With cases continuing to increase, the crisis is far from over," said Mayor Andy Letham, Chair of the Eastern Ontario Wardens' Caucus (EOWC). "Our long-term recovery will depend on investment in robust broadband that keeps pace with the demands of new technology."
"If COVID-19 has done anything, it has created consensus across governments and political parties that rural broadband must be a top priority," said Warden J. Murray Jones, Chair of EORN. "We must turn that consensus into action. The second wave of the pandemic is just reinforcing how critical connectivity is for our lives, from school and health care to the very survival of many businesses."
EORN has been seeking federal and provincial support to deliver ultra-fast, Gig-speed internet to homes and businesses in the region. The project is valued at up to $1.6 billion, including investments by the federal and provincial governments and the private sector.
"EORN's proposal to deliver Gig-speed internet to eastern Ontario could be a model used across Canada," Jones said. "Our early economic analysis shows that the project would pay back the investment in growth and tax revenues less than five years after it was completed."
At current rates of population growth, governments would recover an investment of $400 million, and see $161 million in new income and sales tax revenues, in the first five years after the project is completed. Increased home values in the region would generate as much as $20 million annually in new property tax revenues for municipal governments.
The Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has set 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload internet speeds as a minimum basic service goal. Without additional public investment, it is unlikely that parts of eastern Ontario would reach these service levels before 2030. Meanwhile, the average global broadband speed in 2020 is 92 Mbps and is projected to reach 110 Mbps by 2023, according to the Cisco Annual Internet Report.
EORN prefers the Gig Project, which would rely on fibre networks, as a long-term solution to help rural areas keep pace and level the playing field for the long run. Fibre connectivity is scalable and has a 20- to 25-year lifecycle that would serve the region for a generation.
EORN, a non-profit created by the EOWC, works to improve and leverage broadband access across a geographic area that encompasses 113 upper, local and single-tier municipalities in rural eastern Ontario. EORN is currently working on a $213 million project to improve cellular services across the region. Funded by public and private sector partners, that project is expected to begin construction in 2021.
Previously, from 2010 to 2014, EORN improved broadband access to nearly 90 per cent of eastern Ontario through a $175 million public-private partnership. The project improved access for 423,000 homes and businesses to internet speeds of up to 10 Mbps, which was considered high-speed at the time. It also spurred more than $100 million in additional private sector investment in the region, over and above their initial commitments.
SOURCE Eastern Ontario Regional Network
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