County to invest at least $477K in mobile broadband
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | May 24, 2018
County councillors didn’t hesitate to sign on the line to invest in the Eastern Ontario Regional Network’s (EORN) mobile broadband project.
On May 23, they unanimously approved an immediate payment of $40,000 for a gap analysis and a future investment ranging between $437,000 and $567,000. That will be paid out next year with funds from reserves.
“I’d probably be willing to spend more money than anyone at this table to push this forward,” said Brent Devolin, councillor and past warden. He said that “capacity and speed [for mobile internet] are accelerating away from us every year.”
Coun. Murray Fearrey was also quick to support the recommendation, which came from CAO Mike Rutter. “I’m with you on this one,” said Fearrey. “I can’t say ‘yes’ fast enough,” added Coun. Carol Moffatt, also mayor of Algonquin Highlands. She said her township was most underserved when it came to EORN’s first project to boost internet speeds to homes and business. It was undertaken eight years ago at a cost of $175 million, with a $500,000 investment from the county. A total of 423,000 homes and business were connected to speeds of up to 10 Mbps.
The current provincial government recently committed $71 million to the second project. It’s expected to cover more than 99.5 per cent of the region and address 93 per cent of gaps in capacity. The total price tag is $213 million. It will improve data service for smart phones, tablets and other devices. With an election fast approaching, Rutter said they have been in talks with other political parties to get their buy-in should the Liberals lose. While there hasn’t been a definite commitment, he said the dialogue has been positive.
Currently, 18 per cent of Eastern Ontario has no coverage at all, he said. An additional 16 per cent have inadequate coverage. Although Rutter doesn’t have data to back it up, he suspects those numbers are higher in the county.
He said the proposed project will create 3,000 full-time equivalent jobs, improve public safety and support the province’s push to a 5G network. EORN is a non-profit organization that was established by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.