Haldimand shifts gears on broadband

Xplornet proposal alters county strategy

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The rapidly-changing face of telecommunications in Canada has forced Haldimand County to re-assess its strategy for bringing high-speed internet to under-serviced areas of the municipality.

Haldimand was working with KWIC Internet of Simcoe on the installation of high-speed fibre-optic cable until recently. However, by mutual agreement, KWIC has stood down now that a number of large industry players are re-assessing their interest in outlying rural areas.

This week, Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt said the county and KWIC parted company on good terms.

“The relationship with KWIC has been nothing but exceptional,” Hewitt said Thursday, adding the change in direction is of mutual benefit to both parties.

In a news release, Haldimand County says the arrival of large industry players has changed the cost-benefit analysis for small providers. The county cites as an example Xplornet’s recently-announced plan to extend high-speed internet to 19,000 homes and businesses in Haldimand within the next two years.

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Haldimand took KWIC on as a partner in 2020. Since then, the Trudeau government has increased its financial incentives for the installation of high-speed internet in areas that need it, most notably through Ottawa’s $1.75-billion Universal Broadband Fund. This has encouraged large players in the telecommunications industry to re-assess the business case in rural municipalities.

This was Norfolk County’s experience in February when Rogers Communications approached the municipality with a $50-million offer to extend high-speed internet into 9,000 underserviced homes and businesses.

Rogers’ commitment in Norfolk is contingent on UBF funding. Rogers’ UBF application was one of more than 6,000 from across Canada received by the deadline in March. Norfolk council has its fingers crossed that the county’s $1-million funding commitment toward the Rogers’ bid will give it a leg-up over other municipalities.

“While local circumstances have changed in terms of how broadband expansion is taking place, council’s goal of bringing high-speed internet to rural communities across Haldimand is expected to be achieved through increased competition in the area resulting in better internet service in a quicker time-frame for our residents and businesses,” Hewitt said in the Haldimand release.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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