Springwater mayor ‘totally confident’ Midhurst resident’s internet project will work

Jeff Kerk receives council’s support, in principle, to run fibre-optic cables on hydro lines through the village north of Barrie

Jeff Kerk wants to bring a high-speed internet highway right through the northern tip of Midhurst.

Kerk presented his mission to install high-speed internet to 161 homes in the Gill Road area to Springwater Township council on Jan. 20. He received their support in principle to run fibre-optic cables on the hydro lines through Midhurst.

Kerk said it wasn’t until COVID-19 struck last year that he realized how slow his broadband internet service was.

“With the kids home from school and all of us working from home, we just couldn’t do it,” Kerk said.

After a socially distanced/masked meeting last summer, Kerk said he had the customer base he needed to pursue his dream of running fibre-optic cables 12 kilometres from Doran Road up to the Gill Road, Hillview Crescent and Crystalwood Lane neighbourhood.

Once Hydro One agreed in principle to run cables under a joint-use agreement on about 200 poles, he sourced grants to help pay for the $500,000 project.

Under the Universal Broadband Fund (UFB) Rapid Response Stream of the federal Innovation Science and Economic Development program, Kerk was able to apply for a $300,000 grant to bring high-speed internet access to an under-serviced area.

The broadband fund of $1.75 billion launched last November has $150 million earmarked for immediate availability for projects that are ready to be completed by Nov. 15, 2021.

Additionally, the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) program is a non-profit regional entity which in 2020 announced it can be tapped for upgrading broadband and offering financial support across Simcoe County.

Springwater Township Mayor Don Allen said he’s been working with Kerk during the last year and respects his initiative and creativity to get this project off the ground.

“I’m totally confident it will go through,” Allen said. “He just needed to get support from council, and that we did issue. He will make it happen and it will be a good example of a community broadband solution for that part of the community.”

Kerk figures he’ll need to raise another $150,000 and expects to sell shares of his as-yet-unnamed corporation, as well as charge a $300 installation fee per household to run lines approximately 33 metres (100  feet) from the road to the houses.

“We will benefit our community by bringing fibre internet right into the homes of our neighbours and friends,” Kerk wrote in his address to council. “We will only offer one internet package. It will strive to be the fastest, cheapest and always unlimited.”

Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative, Barrie Advance

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