The minister of northern affairs along with the prime minister’s special representative for the prairies announced additional funding to the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) on Tuesday.
UBF was launched during the 2019 budget as a $1 billion program and is intended to improve high-speed internet access for Canadians, according to a press release. It’s included in the Canadian Connectivity Strategy, a series of federal investments that the government expects will connect approximately 400,000 additional households by the end of 2023.
The federal government’s long term goal is to connect all Canadians to high-speed internet by 2030.
The government will be adding an additional $750 million to UBF to “advance large, high-impact projects. Which will leverage partnerships including with the Canadian Infrastructure Bank broadband initiative.”
Included in the program is a Rapid Response Stream, that will have an accelerated application process according to the press release. Through this program, $150 million is available for projects that will be completed and have services available to Canadians by Nov. 15, 2021 according to the government.
$50 million of the UBF budget will also be allocated for mobile Internet projects that “primarily benefit Indigenous peoples.”
“Today’s investments will help make progress on the Government of Canada’s commitment to create over one million jobs, and its work to support Canadians living in rural, remote, and northern communities,” the press release read.
There’s also a $600 million agreement with Telesat, a Canadian satellite company, to improve connection and expand Internet coverage to rural and remote areas in the country by securing low-earth-orbit satellite capacity.
“Satellites in low-earth-orbit operate 36 times closer to the earth than traditional communications satellites. This means they take less time to send and receive information, leading to better and faster broadband service, including in rural, remote, and northern areas,” the release outlined.
Daniel Vandal, minister of northern affairs, said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of being able to connect with family, friends, and health services among others.
“The Universal Broadband Fund will help bridge the digital divide and allow all Canadians to take advantage of online services including telework, virtual health care, e-learning opportunities, and everything in between. Today’s announcement takes a giant step toward improving connectivity in the Prairies and Territories,” Vandal said in the release.
Being able to access high-speed internet is a top priority for rural and remote Canadians and the government is making sure that all Canadians have access to the latest technology, said MP Jim Carr who also serves as the prime minister’s special representative for the prairies.
“High-speed Internet is more than just a convenience – it means opportunity. It enables physicians to see patients from a distance. It allows businesses to reach customers around the world and it allows students in one classroom to connect with their peers in other parts of the country,” Carr said.