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

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

Slocan Valley communities struggling with the need for high-speed internet should consider Kaslo’s model, according to the Kaslo infoNet Society. Photo: Black Press
Follow Kaslo’s lead for fibre service, says proponent

Tim Ryan of Kaslo infoNet Society says bringing high-speed internet to rural homes is possible

Glacier Gymnastics head coach Sandra Long says she doesn’t understand why her sport is currently shut down while others are allowed to operate. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘It is bewildering’: Nelson sports leaders call out provincial shut down

Indoor group classes for activities such as gymnastics and dance are on hold

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

From the left: Grand Forks sculptor David Seven Deers, Rotary Club President Grant Hill and Shinning Raven Woman Council member Regina Burrows pose for The Gazette at Seven Deers’ 9th Street studio Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks Rotarians raise money for Shining Raven Woman project

President Grant Hill said the Rotary Club “had to be a part of it”

Interior Health said its new toll-free line will help people connect to health-care services. (File)
Interior Health expands toll-free line to improve access to community care

By calling1-800-707-8550, people can be connected to several health-care services

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read