SWIFT opens up RFPs for Oxford County

It is phase 3 of broadband infrastructure expansion

Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman speaks following a round table discussion with local farmers and producers on Thursday February 6, 2020 at the tourism centre in Brantford, Ontario. Hardeman is travelling the province discussing Bill 156 aimed at protecting farmers, farms and food in regard to animal rights activists who trespass. (Brian Thompson/Brantford Expositor/Postmedia Network)

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Oxford County is getting an invite to the broadband revolution happening across Southwestern Ontario.

Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for up to $8.2 million in broadband infrastructure for Oxford County March 9.

The announcement is part of a combined $150 million investment through the Ontario government to improve broadband access in Southwestern Ontario and bring fast, reliable internet to thousands of homes and businesses.

“Having high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Far too many families and businesses in our community are frustrated because they don’t have a reliable internet connection.”

Rural Ontario’s lack of high-speed broadband access could be summed up by a quote from Paul Carvel, a Belgian writer – “Internet: absolute communication, absolute isolation.”

His intention likely was to highlight the Internet’s influence on human-to-human interaction, but it also captured how non-connectivity has negatively impacted the competitive and growth potential of agriculture as well as rural and Northern Ontario communities.

“We applaud the federal and Ontario governments for helping to bring fast, reliable and affordable broadband infrastructure to rural Ontario,” said Keith Currie, Ontario Federation of Agriculture president. “This investment will significantly benefit our farms, homes and businesses in rural communities who increasingly need access to high-speed internet for their work and everyday lives.”

Bill Gates said, “the Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow” and if rural Ontario hopes to remain viable access to the virtual highway is critical, as is financial partnerships between governments and service providers.

“SWIFT’s pilot projects have proven successful,” said David Mayberry, Mayor of South-West Oxford and SWIFT board chair. “(They) have demonstrated with great certainty that service providers support the business model and its unique approach to funding the expansion of broadband infrastructure in rural communities.”

On Jan. 24, SWIFT announced it had awarded contracts to expand high-speed fibre-optic broadband services impacting Wellington, Norfolk and Lambton Counties as well as, Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation to Execulink Telecom Inc., Rogers Communications, EH!tel Networks Inc., North Frontenac Telephone Corporation Limited, and Cogeco Connexions Inc.

In total those projects cover over 445 kilometres and will provide one gigabit per second service access to more than 10,700 homes and businesses across the communities by 2021 for a cool $35 million; $19 million in provincial and federal funding and $16 million from service providers.

“Our government has a plan to connect all of Canada to high-speed internet by 2030,” said the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development said the federal government plans to connect all of Canada to high-speed internet by 2030.

“Since 2017, we’ve invested to connect over 900 communities, including 190 Indigenous communities to high-speed internet,” said Monsef. “Through partnerships with the province, municipalities and service providers, we will continue to create jobs and a higher quality of life for those living in rural Canada.”

SWIFT will be accepting network designs and proposals from prequalified service providers to address the gaps in broadband in service within the eligible funding areas throughout Oxford County until June 19, 2020.

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