Canadian group calls for public-private partnership for rural broadband
30 May 2017 | Alan Burkitt-Gray
A regional Canadian telecoms group, backed by local authorities, is calling for a public-private partnership to provide better mobile coverage in eastern Ontario.
The Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), which already provides fibre and satellite services, says C$213 million (US $158 million) is needed to provide mobile broadband data to areas that are poorly served.
Murray Jones, a local government representative who chairs EORN, said: “Too often, eastern Ontarians find themselves with no signal or dropped cell services. EORN is building on the investment we’ve already made in fibre optics across the region to close the gap in cell services and improve economic growth, quality of life and public safety.”
EORN says a quarter of the area where there are homes, businesses or major roads cannot access any cellular services, and “another 28% to 40% of the area has inadequate capacity to provide high quality mobile broadband service”.
The area that the group is lobbying about is not a remote part of Arctic Canada, but a strip of the province along the northern shore of Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River, reaching almost as far as the Canadian national capital, Ottawa.
EORN says it has submitted “a detailed business case for cell expansion to the federal and provincial governments”. The proposal also includes a public safety broadband network that would connect first responders across the region.
“Building both networks together would cost about C$299 million, saving about C$47 million compared to building them separately,” says EORN.
EORN runs a 5,500km fibre network with 160 access points. It says it has already helped to improve broadband access to nearly 90% of eastern Ontario through a C$175 million fixed broadband network funded by the federal, provincial and municipal governments and private sector service providers.
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