Canadian Government tackles rural broadband

The Government of Canada has announced it will spend up to CAN$500 million by 2021 to improve broadband access in rural and remote parts of the country. The Connect to Innovate program principally will share the costs of backbone network deployments to support broadband access, although access networks themselves also will be addressed in some cases.

The Government of Canada has announced it will spend up to CAN$500 million by 2021 to improve broadband access in rural and remote parts of the country. The Connect to Innovate program principally will share the costs of backbone network deployments to support broadband access, although access networks themselves also will be addressed in some cases.

The effort, which the Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced December 15, targets 300 rural and remote communities across Canada where citizens cannot access broadband services of at least 5 Mbps. Institutions such as schools, hospitals, and First Nation band offices will be among the primary beneficiaries. Mobile services also could be part of the program.

"This backbone infrastructure is often fiber-optic-based, but can be comprised of a range of technologies including microwave and satellite service," states a government webpage that describes the project. The project will focus mainly on new infrastructure, but at least some funds will go toward infrastructure upgrades.

"Capacity upgrades are needed in some communities that already have access to fiber optics but the network is particularly old when less scalable designs were common, and becoming congested," according to the webpage. "Resiliency projects will also be eligible to include the construction of fiber loop extensions to help mitigate the impact of accidental fiber cuts in rural and remote areas."

"Our government is committed to ensuring that all Canadians, businesses, and institutions have access to the opportunities and tools they need to grow and succeed in Canada and abroad," said Minister Bains. "By increasing access to high-speed Internet, the Connect to Innovate program enhances our rural and remote communities' ability to innovate, participate in the digital economy and create jobs for middle-class families. This investment will improve the daily lives of Canadians."

The Government has opened an application process for project funding through the program. Applicants can request funding of up to 75% of a terrestrial backbone project and 90% of a satellite-based backbone effort. For backbone resiliency or capacity upgrade projects, as well as for efforts to address partially served last-mile connections, participants can request funding for up to 50 percent of eligible costs. The deadline for applications is March 13, 2017.

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