Maryam Monsef, minister for women and gender equality and rural economic development, and Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Francis Drouin met with local media through a virtual teleconference November to explain how the federal government’s expanded Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) will help regional Internet and cellular service improvement projects across Canada and to encourage local service providers to submit their project proposals the Rapid Response Stream application process (RRS) before the January 5, 2021, deadline.
Both the minister and MP Drouin noted that this pandemic crisis has highlighted the importance of broadband access for residents and businesses. « The government of Canada is putting its full weight behind this very important infrastructure, » said Minister Monsef. Added Drouin: « I have heard countless residents (in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) tell me about the importance of having good access to broadband. »
The federal government increased its original $1 billion funding plan for the UBF to $1.75 billion to guarantee adequate funding available to support large-scale regional broadband improvement proposals like the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s (EORN) Gig project for ultra-fast broadband service.
Monsef noted that the CRTC’s own reports indicate that only 50 per cent of homes and businesses in the GPR have access to high-speed Internet that provides 50 Megabyte upload speed and 10Mgb download speed. That is now the global average for efficient and effect broadband service and Monsef that the goal for the UBF program is to make sure that all of Canada’s urban and rural areas have at least 50/10 broadband access.
The government also created the RRS component of the UBF program to help small Internet Service Providers (ISP) who have « shovel-ready » projects for improving their existing local broadband services and expanding those services to cover a wider area. Both Monsef and Drouin noted that RRS will prove a great help in meeting the federal goal for improved rural Internet service.
Both the minister and MP noted that the federal government is also reviewing the issue of broadband service pricing to ensure that high-speed Internet service is affordable for everyone. Monsef noted that one condition of the RRS is that ISPs must provide details of their service price rates with funding applications for their projects.
« Projects that offer lower (user) rates will be received more favourably, » she said.