The Ontario government is investing more than $4.8 million to upgrade broadband at public libraries in unserved and underserved communities. By investing in improved broadband at public libraries, the province is providing greater community access to education and vital services, while creating more economic opportunity for residents.
The province is providing the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) with $71 million to improve access to cellular service and mobile broadband in Eastern Ontario and is investing more than $63 million in the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project to expand high speed broadband in Southwestern Ontario.
“Ontario’s public libraries are an important part of our communities and provide a wide range of information, programs and services. Now more than ever, communities need faster and more reliable access to these resources,” said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure. “Our investment will make it easier to use local libraries for learning, accessing services and connecting with others.”
This provincial investment will help many communities bridge the digital divide to ensure residents have access to online information and resources. The Ontario Library Service will oversee and deliver the project. As a first step in the broadband upgrade process, site surveys and assessments will be conducted to identify eligible library branches, with priority given to those with inadequate broadband located within five kilometres of a secondary school.
“This new investment to upgrade broadband services in our rural communities, will ensure our residents also have better access to online information and services,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont Dundas South Glengarry.
This investment is part of Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan. On November 4, 2020, the Ontario government announced an investment of $680 million on top of its existing commitment to improve connectivity in the province, leading to a historic investment of nearly $1 billion over six years.
“Robust broadband access through the public library is increasingly critical to the well being of local communities,” said Andrea Cecchetto, President of the Ontario Library Association. “The Ontario government’s strategic investment will ensure that tens of thousands of people in small, rural and northern communities, as well as First Nations, will have the high speed broadband necessary for fair access to the e resources and learning opportunities they need to succeed.”
Through the Public Library Operating Grant, the government provides $21 million in annual operating funding to nearly 400 public and First Nations public libraries. As many as 12% of households in Ontario – or about 1.4 million people – are underserved or unserved, according to the Canadian Radio television and Telecommunications Commission.
As of April 2021, Ontario’s two library service organizations will amalgamate into a single library service board, the Ontario Library Service organization, which will streamline administrative functions and increase efficiency and consistency in the delivery of services across the province.