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Access to high-speed internet has become an essential part of modern-day life. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this reality, as for so many, it has transformed the way we must communicate for work, in education, and with our loved ones. While the Sunshine Coast is fortunate to have a high degree of high-speed broadband connectivity overall, residents, including from the Egmont Community Club, have been letting me know since before I was elected that persistent connectivity gaps remain.
Connectivity is an issue in rural areas throughout the second largest country in the world, where the low density of households limits the business case for the private sector to invest in building out broadband infrastructure. I meet every week with fellow Liberal Members of Parliament that comprise the Rural Caucus to diagnose this and other problems facing rural communities so that we can propose solutions. Maryam Monsef, the Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, is there every step of the way to advocate at the cabinet table to deliver solutions.
These efforts bore fruit with the announcement of the $1.7 billion Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) on Nov. 8, 2020, which built upon significant investments over the last five years. The UBF will ensure 98 percent of Canadian households are connected by 2026, and every Canadian household is connected by 2030. Among others, it includes $600 million for Low Earth Orbit Satellites for extremely remote areas and the Rapid Response Stream (RRS) to build shovel-ready projects.
After many discussions with SCRD Area Director A Leonard Lee and different telecommunications providers, we determined where new fibre optic cable needed to be installed and where last mile connectivity was a problem on the Sunshine Coast. This led to an RRS application by Telus Communications to address it.
On Feb. 18, 2020, alongside Minister Monsef and Telus, I was very pleased to announce nearly $1 million in federal funding from the RRS for the “North Sunshine Coast Project,” which will deliver broadband connectivity to 413 households through 51 km of fibre cable in Egmont, Earls Cove, Ruby Lake and Kleindale. A second project in the riding will connect a further 300 households from Mount Currie to Devine in the Squamish Lil’wat Regional District through a federal investment of over $2
Investments like these will ensure rural areas lead our robust and resilient recovery from COVID-19. Importantly, these two projects will be built by Nov. 15, 2021, allowing residents to work from home, access virtual health care, learn virtually, and meet other challenges necessitated by the pandemic to keep our communities safe.
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