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 nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Mascot Super Saver Sam sends a socially-distanced high-five to all Kootenay Savings community partners. As part of Kootenay Savings ongoing commitment to giving back to the Kootenays, through good times and challenging times, the credit union has teamed up with their community-minded employees to distribute $9,500 in donations to 17 non profits.Photo: Kootenay Savings
Kootenay Savings gives a boost to non-profits

Employees at each branch picked a non-profit for a $500 gift

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

A pillar of the Trail community, stonemason Bill Di Domenico recently passed away just shy of his 104th birthday. Here are people walking along the stone bleachers he helped construct at Gyro Park. (date unknown) Photos: Submitted
Paying homage to a cherished Trail stonemason

Guglielmo “Bill” Di Domenico recently passed away just months shy of his 104th birthday

Andy Yoon of Abbotsford receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 24, 2020. As of Feb. 22, 2021, Fraser Health had still not laid out a rollout plan to vaccinate people over 80. (Photo courtesy of Fraser Health)
OPINION: Daughter of 97-year-old Chilliwack man is asking when her father will get vaccinated

While 94% of those over 70 in the UK have had the COVID jab, the nonagenarian from England must wait

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

(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 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

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Most Read