New broadband internet legislation receives praise from local, provincial reps

MANITOULIN – The province of Ontario is being praised for its introduction of new legislation that would help connect more communities to reliable, high-speed internet sooner, speed up broadband development time and reduce costs. The 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.

“This is really good news,” stated Susan Church, executive director of Blue Sky Networks, based in North Bay. “Essentially this is something we have been trying to bring to the attention of all involved for some time now. And it will be good for projects; going forward, it will be a more equitable and practical process.”

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.

“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.”

“We all need broadband and access to make it more available, which is a challenge. We have hydro and poles in town on Main Street, so this announcement may benefit us in that respect,” said Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne. As a report by Blue Sky noted, we have the best infrastructure on Manitoulin Island for broadband. 

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) stated in a policy update earlier this month, “AMO expects to engage with the Ontario government during the regulatory development process to ensure that the legislation improves broadband coverage to municipal governments without jeopardizing accountability for municipal rights-of-way and local autonomy. AMO has strongly supported expansion of access to broadband connectivity for Ontario communities and will work to ensure the proposed legislation helps communities achieve that while protecting local taxpayers and their investments.