Quebec invests millions in high-speed internet in the regions

Quebec invests millions in high-speed internet in the regions

Politicians of all levels and similarities have repeatedly promised for years that the rollout of high-speed internet in the Quebec regions could come to an end by 2021, when forecasts by Minister for Economic Affairs and Innovation Pierre Fitzgibbon come true.

On Friday, Minister Fitzgibbon announced a $ 100 million bid for digital infrastructure projects in Shawinigan to provide service to 70,000 rural households not covered by federal or CRTC joint programs.

“My goal is for contracts to roll out the Internet (fast) somewhere in 2021 anywhere in Quebec. When are they effective? I do not know; it depends on the telecommunications companies, but there comes a date where we can say: it is done, we sign the contracts, it will be done in the next few years and everything will be united, ”the minister said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

The program, called Connected Regions, aims to provide service to about 70,000 households and thousands of businesses located in areas that are only partially provided by broadband Internet. It targets regions where service is uneven, as some regions were not eligible for the first Quebec Connected program, and it also prevents the federal government from inviting further tenders.

Quebec estimates that 340,000 households do not have high-speed internet access and allocated $ 400 million to fill this gap. Of this number, 110,000 households will be deployed, included in the first installment of the Quebec Connected program and connected with Ottawa.

An additional 160,000 will be covered either through Quebec Connected's second component, Quebec-Ottawa, or through other programs in partnership with CRTC, for which amounts have already been set aside.

"In two cases, and unfortunately I can't say when, because there is one end of the equation that I don't control, but I think with the CRTC it's going very fast, there is money and I think federal money is there, "he said while acknowledging that there could be some uncertainty over the election as the funds were provided in the Liberal budget.

“We see if the Liberals take power, the majority, the minority, I think we will continue. If they are conservative, I am pretty sure because (…) I find it hard to believe that any government will be unable to fulfill this obligation, ”the minister said.

On the other hand, these programs did not include the 70,000 households targeted by Friday's bidding process, and therefore the minister's decision to release $ 100 million from his entire $ 400 million envelope to cover only the service.

“I don't expect the federal government; I'll do it right now. I'm the only decision maker, so for three years I can only blame me if we didn't do anything. With this $ 100 million, we are going to take areas that we do not think are eligible for the next federal program, and we are doing them now, ”Fitzgibbon said.

Interested companies must submit their bids for this program by 18 November. They must provide a minimum download size of 50 megabits per second and at least 10 megabits per second for upload.

It should be noted that the purpose of the program is to enable RCMs, school boards and band councils to submit project proposals in collaboration with Internet service providers.

This announcement was clearly welcomed by the business community. The Canadian Independent Business Federation (CFIB), which represents SMEs, said in a statement that "more than one in two SMEs tell us they are not connected through a better internet connection because there is no better offer in their area".

CFIB also cautiously adds that because government funding for new digital infrastructure, we expect prices for optimal Internet access to be competitive and reasonable even in remote areas, "regretting that the announcement does not include a broadband component in the cellular coverage area. CFIB wants Quebec" to take to take urgent action to remedy this inequality '.

For its part, the Quebec Federation of Chambers of Commerce (FCCQ) sees this announcement as "a first step (…) to ensure broadband internet access in areas of Quebec that are still not or partially provided".

The Federation argues that such infrastructures are necessary for the economic development of the regions and are an essential component of economic growth. Recalling that 160,000 homes in the area remain connected to this announcement.

The FCCQ believes that the federal government elected on Monday should prioritize its realization and recommends that "in future calls for proposals," two governments agree to further coordinate their efforts to avoid duplication and contradiction.

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