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

Gregory Ould, co-founder and executive director of Blanket BC, drops off warming blankets to Our Home on Eighth shelter in Port Alberni during a tour of Vancouver Island on Feb. 19, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Blanket BC delivers warmth, hope to Vancouver Island’s homeless

Gregory Ould donated blankets, toques in five communities

Construction takes place on Bamfield Main in early February 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS)
Closures planned for Bamfield Road

Construction by Mosaic unrelated to $30M upgrade

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The Alberni Valley’s Emergency Operations Centre is located around the corner and below the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District office. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District tests new mobile alert system

Residents can still sign up for free Voyent Alert! emergency messaging

Crews respond to a structure fire in the 6000 block of Renton Road in Cherry Creek on Saturday, Feb. 27. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Workshop destroyed in Cherry Creek fire

Crews stayed on scene overnight fighting ‘stubborn’ blaze

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Most Read