Kitchener-Waterloo

Ontario's broadband investment too slow for people in 'crisis mode', says Sue Foxton

North Dumfries Mayor Sue Foxton welcomed the re-commitment by Ontario Premier Doug Ford to invest $150 million to expand broadband internet and cell service in rural communities but says it could take up to a year before people see it come to fruition and the infrastructure needs to come faster.

Rural customers paying hundreds every month for basic service, said Foxton

North Dumfries Mayor Sue Foxton says she's really pleased with the announcement and the RFPs that have gone out but that the infrastructure must be built faster. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The Mayor of North Dumfries has welcomed Wednesday's announcement by Ontario Premier Doug Ford that he's investing $150 million to expand broadband internet and cell service in rural communities.

But Sue Foxton said people in rural areas have been faced with high bills from the service providers, and she wished the announcement had come sooner.

"Right now we're in a crisis mode," Foxton told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. 

"My councillors at the last meeting, the ones in the rural areas, talked about bills from Rogers and Bell going from $100 or $200 a month to $500-$600 a month.

"That's what they're charging now for the hubs out there, and these are people who are watching very carefully how often they go on the internet because they know the cost is expensive."

While making the announcement, Ford said "reliable high speed internet is no longer a luxury."

The province says the money — part of a $315 million dollar plan, previously announced in July — will pay for a portion of approved projects pitched by groups like telecom companies, municipal governments, First Nation communities, and non-profits.

"We welcome it. We've welcomed every announcement regarding broadband across Ontario that's been happening for the last three-four years," said Foxton, a board member of SWIFT — a non-profit broadband expansion project in southwestern Ontario.

"It needs to come faster, understanding that with the announcement and the money, getting the contracts going, we're still looking down the road six, eight, 12 months or more before it comes to fruition because they have to actually build in the infrastructure."

"I'm really pleased with the announcement and the RFPs that have gone out. It's a wonderful thing that's it happening but I wish it had happened sooner," Foxton added.

Also on Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce, said the government will also connect all Ontario high schools to broadband by September 2020 and all elementary schools by September 2021. 

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