Northumberland County residents can expect news soon about improved internet access

Warden Brian Ostrander says county has 'aggressive rollout timeline' for rural broadband expansion

A telecommunications tower. (Photo: Eastern Ontario Regional Network)
A telecommunications tower. (Photo: Eastern Ontario Regional Network)

Northumberland County residents should see movement towards rural internet improvements in the coming months, the county’s top politician says.

Brian Ostrander, Northumberland County warden and mayor of the Municipality of Brighton, said the county is poised to share news this autumn regarding the promised rural broadband expansion project.

“Northumberland is expecting to be able to announce next steps in rural broadband expansion early in the fall with an aggressive rollout timeline,” Ostrander told kawarthaNOW.

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Following COVID-19 and deemed essential for post-pandemic economic recovery, the federal and provincial governments announced $45 million in joint funding towards an initiative to deliver high-speed internet access to all households and businesses across Northumberland, in partnership with Northumberland County and private sector partners.

The county has said providing high-speed internet services across Northumberland’s hilly landscape and dispersed population makes the task complex. About one-third of Northumberland households are either underserved with broadband access or entirely unserved, according to the county.

Northumberland announced in 2022 it had developed “an innovative approach” intended to meet the growing high-speed internet needs of residents, businesses, and public services. Ultimately, county council endorsed establishing a municipal services corporation to manage broadband as an open access utility.

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The approach merges significant public funding and private capital investment to create the utility. The private sector-led utility is designing and building a local fibre-to-the-home telecommunications network and then — over time — will provide open, wholesale access to this network to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the county noted. ISPs will use this network to deliver high-speed internet services to Northumberland residents and businesses.

The network will be able to deliver a minimum internet speed of one gigabit per second, according to the county. At the time of the announcement, the target timeline for delivering high-speed internet access to all households and businesses across Northumberland was the end of 2024 to early 2025.

In other telecommunications news, the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and Rogers Communications announced earlier in June that Rogers 5G mobile services are now available in 21 communities across eastern Ontario. Forty-two new cell towers and four additional upgrades to existing sites are completed, and now offer Rogers 5G mobile services to residents, businesses and visitors.

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Rogers 5G mobile services are now available in parts of the following areas:

  • City of Kawartha Lakes
  • County of Frontenac
  • County of Haliburton
  • County of Hastings
  • County of Lanark
  • County of Lennox and Addington
  • County of Northumberland
  • County of Peterborough
  • County of Prince Edward
  • County of Renfrew
  • United Counties of Leeds and Grenville
  • United Counties of Prescott and Russell
  • United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
  • City of Kingston
  • Town of Gananoque
  • Alderville First Nation
  • Algonquins of Pikwakanagan
  • Curve Lake First Nation
  • Hiawatha First Nation
  • Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte
  • Mohawks of Akwesasne

The announcement is part of the EORN Cell Gap Project, a $300-million public-private partnership to improve and expand cellular services across rural eastern Ontario. About half the project is co-funded by federal and provincial governments, as well as municipal members of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and most of the Eastern Ontario Mayors’ Caucus.

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Rogers Communications, which was selected through a competitive bidding process, is providing the balance of the investment, a media release noted.

“High-speed, reliable, and affordable cellular services are essential for Canadians to succeed today,” said Sean Fraser, federal minister of housing, infrastructure and communities, in the release.

“We are proud to support this project, and I am incredibly excited about today’s milestone with even more Ontarians now able to access enhanced broadband services and all the benefits that come with it.”

Through this partnership, Rogers Communications is building approximately 332 new telecommunications cell towers consisting of newly built and co-located sites, which are sites shared with other providers. In addition, 312 existing sites will be upgraded — bringing wireless infrastructure to more municipalities and Indigenous communities in eastern Ontario. To date, 309 sites have already been upgraded and 100 new cell towers have been completed, according to the release.