Rideau Lakes, Athens to benefit from internet funding

Rideau Lakes and Athens Township residents will get an internet upgrade with the help of new federal funding.

On Wednesday morning, Francis Drouin, Member of Parliament for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, and Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen announced more than $6.9 million in funding to bring high-speed internet to rural Ontario.

The funding will go towards five internet initiatives that will bring high-speed internet to more than 3,455 households in rural Ontario.

"This investment will ensure that communities like Rideau Lakes and in the Muskoka region are no longer limited to accessing the services they need because of the broadband connectivity," said Gerretsen.

The funding was allocated between different communities for various projects.

A total of $1,592,854 will go toward a WTC Communications project that will benefit communities in Rideau Lakes, including Portland, The Bush (near Elgin), Morton, Seeley's Bay and Delta.

The WTC Communications project will bring fibre to homes with a speed up to one gigabyte per second to over 750 homes and 50/10 megabits per second fixed wireless service to over 900 homes, said Mike Lynn, general manager of WTC Communications.

The Universal Broadband Fund (UFB) announcement extends the services into the Jones Falls, Morton, Bush Road, Cove Road, Sheldon's Landing and Big Rideau Lake Road areas.

Further, three existing wireless towers in the Jones Falls area will be upgraded, allowing for 50/10Mbps wireless service. That means an additional 351 homes or business will get fibre access this year and 998 homes and businesses gain access to 50/10 wireless service, township officials said.

"This project will continue to expand WTC's fibre network in Rideau Lakes and give residents the connection they need to work, learn, socialize and entertain themselves," said Lynn.

He thanked the federal government for its support to bring better broadband to rural communities.

"We would also like to thank Mayor Hoogenboom and the Rideau Lakes council for their commitment to improving broadband throughout the township," he added.

According to Lynn, the project was started last summer and the community of Portland was able to start having installations at the end of the summer. The rest of the project will be completed by March.

"Rideau Lakes continues to improve and expand our local broadband network as well as resident and business access. Many Rideau Lakes residents now have access to significantly better internet. This creates tremendous opportunities for business development, resident attraction and continued exceptional quality of life in Rideau Lakes," said Mayor Arie Hoogenboom in a prepared statement.

Another $267,781 was allocated in Athens, for a Bell Canada Enterprises project.

The investment will be "helping create jobs, improving access to health care and online learning services, and keeping people connected," said Gudie Hutchings, minister of rural economic development, in a prepared statement.

"Through the Universal Broadband Fund, the Government of Canada has committed over $2.6 billion to date to connect rural Canadians to better, faster Internet."

Story by Jessica Munro, Brockville Recorder and Times, for the Local Journalism Initiative.