About 120 rural homes across St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake will get access to high-speed internet this year through a program announced Monday.
Niagara Regional Broadband Network will receive $143,000 in federal funding for the work.
“It’s been a difficult time, close to a year, for every Canadian” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Maryam Monsef, federal minister for women and gender equality and rural economic development, via a Zoom press conference.
“But if you’re living in a rural community or a mixed rural-urban community without access to high-speed internet, the pandemic has been that much more difficult.”
The money comes from the $175-billion federal universal broadband fund, which aims to have 98 per cent of all Canadian homes hooked up to high-speed service by 2026 and the entire country by 2030.
So far in Ontario, the fund has committed more than $205 million for 17 connectivity programs affecting 19,657 properties.
This project is covered by the fund’s rapid response stream, meaning it should be completed by the end of 2021.
St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle noted most urban Niagara residents have access to high-speed internet service.
“However, not far outside St. Catharines this announcement relates to an area a five-minute drive from my house,” he said.
“Using the internet can feel much different for residents and businesses. Slower, spottier internet doesn’t mean it just takes longer to watch Netflix.
“In 2021, it’s harder to participate in school, harder to work remotely and harder for rural businesses to reach their customers.”
Niagara Regional Broadband Network, owned jointly by the municipalities of Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake, will carry out the work in Niagara.
That will involve 99 households in St. Catharines and 21 in Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“The pandemic has really exacerbated the need for a better-connected home,” said network president Geoff Heinen.
“I know it’s just one house at a time, but it’s what we need to do to support Canadians as they’re going through this difficult time.”
The network, formed by the two municipalities in the early 2000s, initially connected Niagara’s schools, hospitals and municipal offices to high speed-internet. It has since expanded to the commercial market.
Monday’s announcement also included funding to provide access for 190 homes in the Rothsay and Drayton areas northwest of Guelph.