Lambton County broadband connectivity projects celebrated

Lambton County broadband connectivity projects celebrated

Lambton’s last stage in a two-year series of projects connecting its rural areas with broadband internet is soon wrapping up, says the head of the organization behind a regional internet infrastructure upgrade plan.

Lambton’s last stage in a two-year series of projects connecting its rural areas with broadband internet is soon wrapping up, says the head of the organization behind a regional internet infrastructure upgrade plan.

“In total in Lambton County, you’ll have just over 5,000 premises” connected to high-speed internet by the end of 2023 through the Southwestern Integrated Fiber Technology project, SWIFT executive director Barry Shield said, “which is outstanding.”

Shield was among a group in Thedford Friday that included provincial Labor Minister and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton and London West MP Arielle Kayabaga, representing federal Infrastructure Minister Dominic LeBlanc, gathered to celebrate the completion of recent upgrade projects in Lambton Shores that connected 1,300 families, farms and businesses.

“Including the Widder Station golf club we’re at today,” said Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden, also a member of SWIFT’s board.

Funding was also highlighted Friday for Middlesex County SWIFT projects, expected to finish later this year or by next May, to connect roughly 300 properties in Kerwood, Strathroy, Napperton, Ballymote and Melrose, officials said.

“After the last two-and-a-half years, we all know how incredibly important (internet) is for us,” said Vanderheyden, noting it’s essential for services like banking and job searches.

“It is vitally important that residents continue to have access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband service.”

The combined cost of the six Lambton and seven Middlesex SWIFT projects is about $32 million, Field said, with internet service providers like Execulink, Cogeco and Brooke-Telecom covering about 50 per cent.

Federal and provincial governments split the remainder evenly, he said, save for $2.5 million Lambton County Council tacked on when funding was stretching thin to ensure the Petrolia and Wyoming-area project would go ahead.

In total, SWIFT’s 97 projects across 18 counties and municipalities, which are connecting just shy of 64,000 premises, are about half done, Shield said, noting the deadline to finish is June 30, 2023.

“So we’re kind of in the final stages of it right now,” he said.

In 2021, the provincial and federal governments announced all rural Ontario households would have high-speed internet by the end of 2025, and that the governments would be equal partners in a $1.2-billion investment towards that end.

Friday’s event in Thedford was one in a recent series in local communities celebrating connectivity milestones, officials said.

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