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Wardens’ Caucus takes action to support rural broadband

(Metro Creative Graphics)

SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO – At their meeting on July 2 the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (WOWC) approved a series of recommendations to support rural broadband in Southwestern Ontario.

Increased funding from both the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada is urgently needed to address Southwestern Ontario’s large connectivity gaps, to close the digital divide and restart economies.

“Broadband is critical in moving the economy in Southwestern Ontario forward,” said Minto Mayor George Bridge, chair of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus Economic Development Committee.

“We have heard from our business community loud and clear that in order to remain competitive, access to reliable internet is key.”

In order to reduce the digital divide within Southwestern Ontario, and to achieve the Canada’s target of having 95 per cent of homes and businesses with access to internet speeds of at least 50/10 Mbps by 2026, the government of Canada must fund $254 million and the government of Ontario must fund $221 million.

“The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus supports the funding of existing shovel ready, municipally led projects that will connect our rural economies at an accelerated pace,” said Huron County Warden Jim Ginn, chair of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus.

“We support SWIFT as Southwestern Ontario’s funding mechanism to advance the expansion of critical broadband infrastructure across the region.”

Combined with a $174 million commitment from public-private partnerships, the WOWC intends to successfully address the $1 billion Southwestern Ontario infrastructure deficit and achieve the interim goal of providing 50/10 broadband services to 95 per cent of the population within the region by 2025.

In addition, the WOWC is also requesting that the CRTC Broadband Fund and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) Universal Broadband Fund each allocate 10 per cent of their funds directly to Southwestern Ontario (based on population share of total for Canada).