Earlier this week, I joined provincial Ministers Deb Matthews and Bob Chiarelli, as well as federal Minister Navdeep Bains and colleagues from the Western Ontario Warden's Caucus (WOWC), for a major funding announcement in support of the Southwestern Ontario Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) Network project.
When I say major, I mean huge! The province and federal governments are each kicking in $90 million to support SWIFT, which will improve access to ultra-high speed broadband internet connectivity across all of Southwestern Ontario… and of course Simcoe County!
I sit as Vice Chair of the WOWC and Chair of the SWIFT Initiative Sub-Committee; and as a mayor of a rural, small-town, I have long advocated for equal access to broadband internet for all.
My private sector experience before entering municipal politics was primarily in the telecommunications sector. Given my background, I have long found it simply unacceptable that our rural communities remain underserviced or are at the mercy of independent service provider offering significantly overpriced internet connectivity. My fellow County Councillors share this sentiment. That is why we were one of the first municipal governments to support SWIFT, when in May 2015, we showed leadership by contributing $2.5 million towards the project over a five year period.
Universal access for rural communities in Simcoe County will help us retain our young people, attract growth and development, support rural businesses and entrepreneurs and will make public services easier to access.
SWIFT meets all these needs and offers a forward-looking, financially sustainable solution that will help make our businesses more competitive and create greater equality in terms of access to reliable and affordable internet connectivity across the entire county. Here's how it works:
- SWIFT will build on existing fibre to create a far-reaching regional fibre network. The project will leverage government and broader public sector organization (i.e., schools and healthcare centres) to serve as anchor tenants of the network. This strategy will bring fibre closer to customers and will make it easier for independent service providers (ISPs) to connect homes and businesses to ultra-high-speed internet
- SWIFT will direct funding – from municipal, provincial and federal governments - to address gaps in broadband infrastructure that are leaving some communities behind. The new funding will trigger private investment from ISPs, who will continue to own and operate their networks and deliver services directly to customers
- All ISPs will have equal access to the fibre network, leveling the playing field and creating a more competitive marketplace. That will better serve urban and rural communities
Beyond our Caucus, the Region of Niagara, the Town of Caledon and the City of Orillia are also on board. Southern First Nations Secretariet, school boards, colleges, university and health care organizations have also joined us through valuable partnerships.
Our timeline and implementation plan will be formalized over the coming months. With a project of this scale, we will continue to monitor timelines and keep you updated as progress is made.
This is a tremendous victory for all our residents and businesses in Simcoe County, and for all of us who have been advocating for equal connectivity.
Simcoe County Warden