Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Trudeau pledges $1.75B to boost high-speed internet in remote communities

Universal Broadband Fund that was part of the Liberal budget announcement in early 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that his government is launching a $1.75-billion fund to expand high-speed internet to Canadians in rural and remote communities.

The Universal Broadband Fund that was part of the Liberal budget announcement in early 2019, months before last year’s federal election, has taken longer than expected to be officially launched.

But the PM and several of his ministers said they used the time to make the funding process less cumbersome and more relevant to communities, recognizing that the COVID crisis has made good internet an even higher priority than before the pandemic.

“The program we are launching today … reflects the advice and recommendations on how best to solve the most important infrastructure challenge of our time, how to strengthen our connections,” said Maryam Monsef, minister for rural economic development.

“We were ready to go, in March, with the new Universal Broadband Fund. And then the pandemic hit.”

In response, the government consulted with members of Parliament from rural areas and officials with local governments that were overloaded by the demands of the COVID crisis.

“We heard that the processes have to be streamlined and more easily accessible,” Monsef said. “We also heard that communities are, rightfully so, impatient to see progress.”

As a response, she said, the government is ready to accept applications immediately, there’s a new service to assist with navigating the system, and $150 million of the $1.7 billion is designated for projects that are ready to be completed by next November.

Trudeau said the Universal Broadband Fund will see 98 per cent of Canadians connected to high-speed internet by 2026 — crucial in an era when virtual communication is an essential part of daily life.

“Good reliable internet isn’t a luxury, it’s a basic service,” Trudeau said Monday at a news conference in Ottawa.

“We’re all going online to stay in touch with family and friends. Now more than ever a video chat cutting out during a meeting or a connection that’s too slow to upload a school assignment, that’s not just a hassle, that’s a barrier.”

The program, announced originally in the Liberal government’s 2019 budget as a $1-billion fund, includes $750 million of added cash to advance projects with partners such as the federal infrastructure financing agency.

In addition to the Universal Broadband Fund, the government announced a $600-million deal with Ottawa-based satellite company Telesat to link up particularly remote communities with high-speed broadband via satellite.

Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said Telesat’s low-orbit satellites are scheduled to be deployed in late 2021 and service is projected to begin in 2022.

Bains also acknowledged that many communities in the North have faced bracingly high internet fees. He said the government believes competition among different service providers would “enable the price points to go down.”

The Universal Broadband Fund is only one of many federal programs, often with similar or complementary mandates.

For example, it’s partly an evolution of the Connect to Innovate program that the Trudeau government announced in its first mandate, to connect more households to the internet, and partly a complement to its $35-billion infrastructure bank.

The Liberals created the Canada Infrastructure Bank in 2017 to entice funding from private-sector partners to fuel what the government has called “transformational” infrastructure projects that would create 60,000 jobs.

However, the bank has been criticized for its relatively small number of investments in fewer than a dozen projects so far and both the Conservatives and NDP promised in the 2019 election to abolish the bank if they were voted into power.

— With files from David Paddon in Toronto and Christopher Reynolds in Ottawa

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Internet and TelecomJustin Trudeau

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Last week singer Narissa Young, pianist Scott Arkell and the rest of her band released the jazz standards album ‘Fever.’ (Photo courtesy Dirk Heydemann)
Nanaimo jazz singer releases first album in nine years

Narissa Young’s latest CD ‘Fever’ features renditions of jazz favourites

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog is happy to be on hand as Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress, represented by president Gordy Dodd, presents 150 blankets to the Salvation Army in Nanaimo, represented by envoy Dawne Anderson. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Furniture store donates 150 blankets to Salvation Army in Nanaimo

Dodd’s cancels drive-thru giving event due to COVID-19, but finds another way to help

Creativity Commons manger Jonathon Bigelow is printing copies of ‘Alone but Not Alone: Poetry in Isolation’ using the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library’s Espresso Book Machine. (Photo courtesy Corinne Shortridge)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library releases COVID-19-themed poetry anthology

‘Alone but Not Alone: Poetry in Isolation’ features poets from across the Vancouver Island region

Letter writer isn’t convinced that a pride-of-place campaign and a leaders’ table initiative will result in the kind of decisions and actions needed in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Real change requires more than buzzwords

Letter writer questions pride-of-place campaign, leaders’ table initiative

Nanaimo city councillors have recommended a $1.3-million cycle track for Albert Street between Pine Street and Milton Street. The city held a budget-focused finance and audit committee meeting Friday. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
City of Nanaimo budgets for new $1.3-million bike lane on Albert Street

Potential property tax increase now at 3.6 per cent after finance and audit meeting Friday

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog is happy to be on hand as Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress, represented by president Gordy Dodd, presents 150 blankets to the Salvation Army in Nanaimo, represented by envoy Dawne Anderson. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Furniture store donates 150 blankets to Salvation Army in Nanaimo

Dodd’s cancels drive-thru giving event due to COVID-19, but finds another way to help

Steve Metcalfe, Quality Foods Harewood store manager, holds a poinsettia and a Coins for Kids donation jar, two symbols of Christmas spirit. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin
Coins for Kids collects for Christmas causes in Nanaimo

News Bulletin fundraising for Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, Boys and Girls Clubs

(Black Press file)
RDN strengthens security after being alerted to publicly accessible property ownership information

Regional District of Nanaimo investigates, reports to privacy commissioner after anonymous e-mails

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

The opening day on Mount Washington this year was Dec. 4. Screenshot
Mount Washington opens on time, COVID-19 protocols in place

“We’re super excited - it’s been six months in the planning.”

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

Most Read