The County of Hastings says it’s pleased to support efforts by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to seek federal and provincial support to improve cellular coverage in the region.
On May 1, members of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus met with their federal representatives from across the region for a breakfast on Parliament Hill to discuss priorities and partnership opportunities that would benefit rural areas including closing the gaps in cellular services to improve economic growth and public safety.
EORN is proposing a $213 million public-private partnership to improve both the reach and quality of cellular data services in the region.
“A reliable cellular connection is essential for people to live in our society today,” said Hastings County Warden Rodney Cooney. “It is a service that we must ensure is available to everyone, including those who live in rural areas. This project will provide our citizens and those visiting our area or conducting business with us with the same opportunities and assurances of those living in urban areas of the province.”
According to an engineering study commissioned by EORN, about one quarter of the area where there are homes, businesses or major roads in the region cannot access any cellular services.
Depending on the cell carrier, another 28 percent to 40 percent of the area has inadequate capacity to provide high quality mobile broadband service given the demand, which continues to grow.
“Too often, Eastern Ontarians find themselves with no signal or dropped cell services,” said EORN Chair J. Murray Jones. “EORN is building on the investment we’ve already made in fibre optics across the region to close the gap in cell services and improve economic growth, quality of life and public safety.”
The gaps are the result of market failure. Rural areas don’t generate enough revenue for cell carriers to build adequate services. The CRTC recently designated both mobile and fixed broadband as basic services for all Canadians. A public-private partnership would reduce carriers’ infrastructure costs, creating a stronger business case to improve services and meet the CRTC’s basic services goals.
EORN has submitted a detailed business case for cell expansion to the federal and provincial governments. The proposal also includes a dedicated, public safety broadband network to seamlessly connect first responders region-wide. Building both networks together would cost about $299 million, saving about $47 million compared to building them separately.
“The demand for mobile data is growing exponentially, but our region is deeply lacking the needed infrastructure to keep up. This project is our top priority because Eastern Ontario’s future is at stake,” said EOWC chair Robert Quaiff.