Blue Sky Net Seeks Support for Area Broadband Expansion Project
MANITOULIN—Several areas on Manitoulin could see improved broadband service if a proposed North Shore Lake Huron project from the non-profit telecommunications organization Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation receives funding.
“In May of 2014 Blue Sky embarked on a broadband expansion project that included a number of communities in the North Shore/Lake Huron area,” explained Blue Sky Executive Director Susan Church, noting the project would improve service in the Northeast Town, Billings Township, Assiginack Township, Gordon Township and Central Manitoulin, as well as Blind River, Espanola, Spanish, Killarney and Nairn. “This project would see coverage greater than 5MBps available to many parts of this project area, but most importantly expand the backhaul and the capacity at central offices, which would make future coverage expansion more feasible.”
Ms. Church said that the organization submitted its funding applications to both FedNor and NOHFC and following an RFP process, submitted phase two applications to both levels of government in April of 2015 for the 12.3 million dollar project.
“We have waited until now to hear from FedNor,” continued Ms. Church. “Prior to the election in October of 2015 there were a series of funding announcements made by Conservative MPs regarding the Connecting Canadians program. This national broadband program was to have made $350 million available for expanding broadband across the nation. While projects were announced in both Muskoka and Nipissing and other parts of Northern Ontario under this program, FedNor essentially stopped funding broadband awaiting direction from the national program to see where their projects were actually going to be built in Northern Ontario.”
“We still haven’t heard anything, so we send letters to the mayors and councils in the project area asking for their support of the project,” said Ms. Church.
“I would urge you to contact both FedNor and the honourable minister responsible for FedNor, Navdeep Bains, and let them know how important broadband is to your community and that you wish to support the approval of the current application (North Shore Lake Huron Project) before them from Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation,” states the letter from Ms. Church. “We have waited nearly one year for a response on this file. Our network partners, Bell and Vianet, who have both confirmed their participation, have waited over a year.”
Ms. Church told The Expositor that she is “unable to talk specifics about the project” until they receive word on funding, but that the project will include a “hybrid solution.”