West End moves closer to full cellular coverage

MANITOULIN— The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) has announced a donation of $1,486,303 through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) to NetCentral (NetCentral Community Communication Network (a not-for-profit community-based telecommunication network)) and its private-sector partners for the construction of four cell towers to expand telecommunications services in Central and Western Manitoulin.

“Ontario is helping Manitoulin Island stay connected by bringing enhanced cellular and mobile broadband services to residents and businesses,” states a press release from the MNDM. “Investing in telecommunications is part of the government’s plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan includes investing in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, creating a dynamic, innovative environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.”

“I am pleased that our government is helping Manitoulin communities stay connected by improving cellular and broadband service,” commented Minister of Northern Development and Mines and Chair of the NOHFC Michael Gravelle.

“The addition of these four cell sites helps ensure that Manitoulin Island residents have access to high-speed telecommunication services. I commend the NOHFC for its commitment to extend telecommunications services in the North,” added Jim Gordon, founding chair of NetCentral.

The four new towers will be constructed to provide cellular and high-speed wireless broadband along Highways 551, 542 and 540 and to communities including Providence Bay, Evansville, Sheshegwaning First Nation, Zhiibaahaasing First Nation and Meldrum Bay.

“We were delighted at the announcement,” said NetCentral General Manager Morry Brown. “We are very pleased with the support from the NOHFC.”

Mr. Brown explained that NetCentral has partnered with Rogers and Bell on the four new towers, with Rogers and Bell each committing to building two towers.

“The plan is for both companies to co-locate on the towers so that there would be access for both Bell and Rogers customers on all four towers,” said Mr. Brown.

“Right now we are awaiting a formal funding announcement from FedNor and then our service providers can proceed,” said Mr. Brown. “Our target date for having service in place is late 2016. We are looking forward to being able to provide great cellular and broadband coverage for Manitoulin residents, youth, businesses and tourists.”

NetCentral completed a seven-tower project on (and just outside of) Manitoulin last fall with towers erected in Kagawong/M’Chigeeng, Manitowaning, Mindemoya, South Baymouth, Little Current, Sheguiandah and Wood Lake (Highway 6, south of Espanola).