Across the federal riding of Pontiac, people agree that Internet access is now an essential part of our everyday life. We go online for education, health services, entertainment and almost everything else.
Every Canadian should have access to high-speed Internet. It’s an absolute necessity if we want to compete in today’s digital and global economy. Technology is digitizing our world and automating every aspect of our lives, including our jobs – indeed, this is one lesson learned from the decline of our region’s forestry sector.
The high-speed revolution cannot just be confined to cities; networks need to be extended to remote and rural areas. Families in all regions need access to the benefits that faster, next-generation networks can bring. High-speed Internet can unlock tremendous economic potential, leading to the creation of new products, businesses and jobs for the middle class.
That’s why I was so pleased to launch, in the riding of Pontiac, alongside the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, our government’s Connect to Innovate program. It was developed following extensive consultations in Pontiac and across Canada, and delivers on our Budget 2016 commitment to invest $500 million by 2021, to extend high-speed broadband internet service to rural communities.
Connect to Innovate focuses on building the “backbone” of high-speed Internet networks. Backbone networks are the digital highways that move data in and out of communities, crucial for institutions such as schools, hospitals and libraries. Building this infrastructure is the modern equivalent of building roads or railway spurs into Pontiac’s rural towns, connecting them to the global economy.
Backbone networks are often fibre optic-based, but can be comprised of a range of technologies including microwave and satellite service. The new program will: i) support the unique connectivity challenges faced by satellite-dependent communities; ii) support upgrades to existing backbone networks; and iii) fund “last-mile” connections to households and businesses that don’t have Internet speeds of at least 5 megabits per second.
I encourage municipal, MRC and indigenous government representatives to check the federal government’s online map that identifies which communities in our riding are eligible for specific types of network investments. Rural communities located over 2 km from an access point to high-capacity backbone are eligible for new backbone funding. Communities considered to have access to high-capacity backbone may be eligible for capacity upgrades or resiliency projects. Areas which do not have any existing broadband service of 5 Mbps or greater are eligible for new last-mile funding.
The intake for submissions will begin as of January 16, 2017, and the deadline for all applications is March 13, 2017. I urge Pontiac residents to engage directly with their local councilors and mayors, and to take advantage of this federal funding, as well as the available Quebec government funding.
Although $500M over 5 years is a major investment of Canadian taxpayer money, this isn’t enough to ensure that every rural location will be connected. So let’s be clear – I’m not promising anything of the sort for Pontiac. We must be strategic, act fast and get organized at the municipal level in consultation with our small businesses, then submit prioritized project proposals!
MP for Pontiac
Below is more detailed information available on the federal Connect to Innovate website:
How does it work?
The program was launched on December 15, 2016 and the intake for submissions will begin as of January 16, 2017. The deadline for all applications is March 13, 2017 at 12 p.m. EST.
Applications will be thoroughly reviewed against the program criteria and eligible projects will be selected at the discretion of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
The program will provide one-time, non-repayable contributions to eligible and approved applicants.
Costs supported include:
- direct labour and capital costs for the deployment of high-speed Internet infrastructure
- related purchases of hardware and software or upgrades of equipment
- leases of satellite capacity, and other costs directly related to the program’s eligible activities, including rental of equipment
- fees for associated contracted services (e.g. environmental assessment consultants or professional engineers)
The program will operate on a cost-sharing basis. Typically the maximum amount of funding that an applicant can request for new backbone and new last-mile is up to 75% of the total eligible costs. For satellite-dependent and remote communities, the program contribution limit for new backbone projects can be up to 90 percent of eligible backbone costs.
The program will provide up to 50 percent of eligible costs for all projects that propose backbone resiliency or capacity upgrades and partially served last-mile.
Total government assistance for all projects, including federal, provincial/territorial and municipal, will not exceed 100 percent of eligible costs.
The program supports projects that are expected to be completed by March 31, 2021. There are five different types of eligible backbone and last-mile projects, but a variety of possible combinations, including a hybrid of both backbone and last-mile infrastructure projects. However, at least one of the following categories described below of backbone and last-mile infrastructure projects are required:
- New backbone: Program funding will be primarily directed to communities identified by Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada as lacking a backbone connection of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) or more, as identified on the Eligibility map.
- Backbone upgrade: Communities which have at least a 1 Gbps backbone connection and are not identified on the Eligibility map will be considered eligible for upgrades if the applicant can clearly demonstrate a capacity constraint.
- Network resiliency: Network resiliency projects are projects where a new fibre backbone route is deployed to provide an alternate data path, increasing network reliability and resiliency for all users.
- New last-mile: Projects proposing to connect households or businesses that lack service at speeds of 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload are eligible in completely underserved areas. Innovation Science and Economic Development has identified these areas on the Eligibility map.
- Partially served last-mile: Areas not identified by coloured hexagons on the Eligibility map are considered partially or completely served at speeds of 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. Projects proposing to connect households or businesses that remain underserved in these areas are eligible if the applicant can clearly demonstrate these households or businesses do not have access to speeds of 5 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.
Eligible recipients under the program include entities or groups of entities that are incorporated in Canada, that operate Internet infrastructure, and that meet the assessment criteria. Entities or groups of entities that do not operate Internet infrastructure will be eligible provided that they have identified an entity or group of entities that will build, own and operate the network. These would include private sector companies, provincial, territorial, and municipal entities, and not-for- profit organizations. Individuals and federal entities (including Crown corporations) are not eligible. For further details on the description of eligible recipients please refer to the application guide located in the application toolkit.
Applicants must identify who will build, own and operate the network, as well as who will manage the project. If the entity making an application to the program does not itself have a track record in operating Internet infrastructure, the applicant must demonstrate that appropriate resources with experience deploying and operating Internet infrastructure are part of the project team and or contracted resources.
Coordination with Quebec
Since the Quebec government has just launched its own program called Québec Branché, here is some additional information about how an eligible organization can submit a proposal to both programs, both of which have the same application deadline of 13 March 2017.
Applicants cannot use the same form for our program and the Quebec program, but our site includes hyperlinks to Québec Branché, along with the application form. The same is true of the Quebec site.
Applicants wishing to apply to both programs must complete a federal form, which is very similar to the form used by Quebec. After checking off the box on our form indicating that the project is in Quebec, a hyperlink appears leading to the Québec Branché site to complete the additional documents required by Quebec in order to receive funding from Quebec.
The department will then forward to the Government of Quebec the joint funding applications it has received, after the 13 March deadline. Québec Branché is now up and running.
The following table shows the total eligible funding from both levels of government and per eligible project.
The financial assistance provided will be in the form of a non-refundable contribution. The rates of financial assistance and total government assistance are as follows:
|Types of eligible projects||Maximum assistance||Total government assistance|
|New backbone network||50% of direct costs||100% of total expenses|
|50% of direct costs||100% of total expenses|
|Redundancy||50% of direct costs||100% of total expenses|
|New last mile||50% of direct costs||100% of total expenses|
|New partially-served last mile||50% of direct costs||100% of total expenses|
|Backbone network and last mile (transportation and distribution)||50% of direct costs||100% of total expenses|