$8.5M rural broadband investment announced in Lambton

(From left to right) Monte McNaughton, Bill Weber, Randy Pettapiece and Bob Bailey at a provincial announcement in Watford. 14 August 2020. (BlackburnNews.com photo by Colin Gowdy)

A couple of under-serviced areas in Lambton county will soon have greatly improved access to broadband internet.

An $8.5 million announcement was made Friday morning in Watford as part of the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project.

Lambton-Kent Middlesex MPP and Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said Brooke Telecom will be doing $5.8 million worth of work east of Petrolia beginning in April 2021.

“The COVID crisis obviously has just really brought to light even more so the need for rural high-speed internet,” said McNaughton. “This announcement today will ensure that over 500 premises will be covered by broadband, another 150 kilometres of fibre optic cable will be laid in Lambton county.”

The funding is being shared jointly between the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

Lambton County Warden and SWIFT Board Member Bill Weber said this project will have a very positive impact in additional areas of Lambton County.

“We are pleased to have been able to provide the additional funding to make this project happen in partnership with SWIFT and Brooke Telecom as we move a step closer to closing the connectivity gap in the province.”

Execulink has started construction on a $2.7 million project that will see 35 kilometres of fibre optic cable installed at Kettle and Stony Point.

That work is expected to be completed by December 2020.

Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point Chief Jason Henry said he welcomes the project.

“The advancement of this project with the support of many great new relationships allows Kettle and Stony Point First Nation the opportunity to continue to thrive and grow. The boost in educational and economic impacts from this investment will be felt for years to come.”

McNaughton said every high school across Ontario will have high-speed internet access this September, and every elementary school will have the service by next September.

He called it the largest rural broadband investment in the history of the province.

-With files from Colin Gowdy