Bay of Quinte – Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith is applauding the Ontario government’s support for a project that aims to provide reliable cellular coverage across all of Eastern Ontario.
The Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, and Government House Leader was pleased with Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton’s announcement this morning in Roseneath as the Province committed $71 million to the proposed Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) $213-million public-private partnership to address cellular gaps.
“This project will give businesses, residents and visitors reliable access to the data applications they depend on no matter where they are in the region. It will also provide a lifeline by providing improved stability for local emergency service communications,” Smith said, noting 10 per cent of Eastern Ontario is currently without reliable service and many areas don’t have the capacity for data-rich applications.
The partnership requires contributions from the municipal and federal levels of government as well as investments from the private sector. Projections from EORN indicate it will create 3,000 jobs over a 10-year period and generate $420 million in revenues. It will also support further economic development, enhancing visitor experiences and ensuring business people can stay connected in remote areas.
“More and more we’re seeing Ontario job creators working in a global market where they connect virtually with their clients,” Smith said. “This technology is vitally important to ensure Eastern Ontario doesn’t fall behind. EORN is ensuring that whether you’re on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in Prince Edward County or heading north, you’ll have access to the signal you expect.”
Smith said the Province has a proven record of collaborating with EORN - a network led by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus member municipalities and 10 separate municipalities. A previous partnership saw a 5,500-km fibre optics network installed between 2010 and 2016 through a similar public-private arrangement. The project brought broadband speeds exceeding 10 Mbps to nearly 90 per cent of the region, while offering connection points for further private investment. That $175-million project delivered a return on investment of $15 for every public dollar spent.
McNaughton called the project “a matter of public safety and opportunity.”
"Our government has committed to help people get the broadband and cellular connections they need," said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Infrastructure. "This means there are homes, businesses and major roadways where it is difficult to access the internet from a smart phone. We all know examples where people are put in dangerous positions because of dropped calls or lost connections during emergencies."
EORN board chair J. Murray Jones was thankful for the commitment.
“Too often, Eastern Ontario residents find themselves with no signal or dropped cell services,” he said. “EORN is building on the investment we’ve already made in broadband infrastructure across the region to close the gap in mobile services and improve economic growth, quality of life, and public safety.”
The Province is hopeful the federal government will commit to funding its share of the project cost.
"Last week, the federal Liberals said the people of Ontario's priorities were their priorities," McNaughton said. "Well, this is a huge priority in Eastern Ontario. It's about public safety, economic growth and development and convenience. We are investing in people and building our province's future.”
· The goal of the project is to bring cell coverage to 99 per cent of the region where people live, work and travel. Unpopulated areas, including forests, swamps and protected lands are not included in that goal.
· In the 2019 Ontario Budget, the provincial government committed $315 million over the next five years to regional and shovel-ready projects.