| Dec 04, 2008

Dec 4/08 - Rural Broadband Grant

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Feature Article - December 4, 2008 Rural Broadband grantBy Jeff Green

Frontenac County will be receiving a grant of $789,078 from the provincial government to help plug high-speed internet gaps in Central and South Frontenac and the Frontenac Islands.

In order to apply for the grant money, the county had set out a request for proposal to find an internet service provider who was willing to provide internet service in areas that had been identified in a study of service gap areas. The study was done for the county by the consulting company Actionable Intelligence, who also helped out with the grant application.

The county is in the process of finalizing a contract with a service provider that they have selected, after which the grant money will be released. It is anticipated that it will be sometime in the spring before new infrastructure will start being installed. Details about the project will likely be forthcoming from the county within the next couple of months.

“One thing that people should understand is that the project will not result in every household in South and Central Frontenac having access to high speed internet,” said Laura Bradley of Actionable Intelligence, “it does not work like that in rural areas.”

In fact, the way provincial mapping works, an area is considered to be served if 75% of the households within it have access to high speed internet.

Nonetheless, receiving the grant money was hailed as an important step in improving the atmosphere for home-based businesses in the county.

“We put forward a collaborative internet strategy which will put Frontenac on a strong communications footing,” said Frontenac County Warden Jim Vanden Hoek. “This news helps us build a digital highway to a significant number of residents and businesses in the county.”

The project does not include North Frontenac Township, but the exclusion was no accident. In her presentation to Frontenac County last summer, Laura Bradley pointed out that the granting program has an upper limit of $1,000,000 per applicant per intake period, and recommended that North Frontenac make a separate application for the February deadline. This would also give more time for North Frontenac to do the groundwork necessary for the granting program.

North Frontenac is in the midst of preparing its grant application, with the assistance of Actionable Intelligence, in the hopes of attaining the same result as its southern neighbours.

The Rural Connections Broadband Program provides funding to help rural municipalities build high-speed Internet projects in their communities. It is administered by the Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Rural Affairs, under Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

The program’s goal is to bring broadband access to rural and remote areas currently under-serviced in southern Ontario. “Broadband infrastructure is essential to rural Ontario’s opportunities and prosperity,” said Dombrowsky last week in announcing 15 grants for a total provincial commitment of $8.8 million.

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