Ontario Taking Action to Expand Access to Reliable Broadband
March 04, 2021
The Ontario government is introducing the Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021 which, if passed, would help connect more communities to reliable, high-speed internet sooner. This legislation proposes to reduce costs to broadband providers associated with attaching broadband wirelines to hydro utility poles, and would provide timely access to poles and to municipal rights of way to install broadband on municipal land. "By taking this step, our government is proposing to speed up Ontario's broadband expansion, increasing our competitiveness, connecting our unserved and underserved communities, and making life more convenient for individuals, families and workers," said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. "Through the initiatives proposed in this legislation we would get our infrastructure working better for Ontario." As many as 700,000 households and businesses in Ontario lack access to adequate broadband speeds, or have no internet connection at all. These proposed measures would help communities connect to reliable broadband sooner, so people can work from home, learn online, connect with family and friends, and access vital services. These proposed measures build on the province's Up to Speed: Ontario's Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. As part of the 2020 Budget, the Ontario government announced a historic investment of almost $1 billion to improve broadband and cellular services, which is an additional $680 million on top of its previous commitment. "All Ontarians deserve access to reliable high-speed broadband and equal opportunity to engage in our ever-growing digital economy and lifestyle," said Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines. "By reducing barriers and costs for internet providers to use existing electricity infrastructure, we are creating a path forward to deliver cost-effective and timely broadband service to communities across our vast province."
Internet and telecommunications service providers based in Ontario face the highest hydro utility pole attachment rates in Canada.
This legislation builds on the Ontario Rebuilding and Recovery Act and the Building Transit Faster Act to help accelerate the building of key infrastructure projects to create jobs and lay the foundation for a strong economic recovery.
Last year, the Province launched the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) program, a multi-year program that aims to support approved broadband and cellular projects as early as Spring 2021. Ontario announced in November 2020 it was doubling funding in the program to $300 million.
The Province has invested in initiatives to improve connectivity across Eastern and Southwestern Ontario. It has also invested in broadband projects through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Next Generation Network Program.
Expanding access to broadband is part of Ontario Onwards: Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan for a People-Focused Government, which includes more than 30 projects that will change the way people and businesses interact with government.