$213-million proposal tackles cellular dead zones across Eastern Ontario
Mobile broadband critical to regional growth
SDG — Cellular service gaps are short-circuiting the region’s economic growth and public safety, says
the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG), which aims to redress the situation in a joint effort with other rural municipalities in the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN).
“In my view, this is the most important project EORN is currently work on,” said Jim Bancroft, SDG Warden. “Expanded mobile broadband access and capacity will ensure that Eastern Ontario remains competitive with other regions, not only in Ontario or Canada, but the world.”
EORN proposes a $213-million public-private partnership to improve both the reach and quality of cellular data services in the region.
About a quarter of those areas in the region with homes, businesses or major roads are currently not covered by cellular services, according to an engineering study commissioned by EORN.
The study also found another 28 to 40 percent of the area — depending on carrier — lacks adequate network capacity to provide high quality mobile broadband service to meet a growing data demand.
The gaps are the result of market failure, according to SDG. Rural areas don’t generate enough revenue for cell carriers to build adequate service, even as the CRTC has recently designated both mobile and fixed broadband as basic services for all Canadians.
SDG touts the public-private partnership approach as key to reducing carriers’ infrastructure costs for a stronger business case to improve services and meet the CRTC’s benchmarks.
EORN has submitted a detailed business case for cell expansion to the federal and provincial governments. The proposal also includes a dedicated, public safety broadband network to seamlessly connect first responders region-wide. Building both networks together would cost about $299 million, saving about $47 million compared to building them separately.
“Too often, Eastern Ontarians find themselves with no signal or dropped cell services. EORN is building on the investment we’ve already made in fibre optics across the region to close the gap in cell services and improve economic growth, quality of life and public safety,” explained EORN Chair J. Murray Jones.
“The demand for mobile data is growing exponentially, but our region is deeply lacking the needed infrastructure to keep up. This project is our top priority because Eastern Ontario’s future is at stake,” added EOWC Chair Robert Quaiff.
A non-profit broadband promotion vehicle created by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), EORN has already helped to improve fixed broadband access to nearly 90 percent of Eastern Ontario through a $175-million network funded by the federal, provincial and municipal governments and the private sector service providers.
The EOWC has since turned its attention to the shortcomings of cellular data service, directing EORN to prepare and submit a project proposal to improve access to mobile broadband services and support the creation of a public safety broadband network.
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