By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Thousands of households and businesses in Chatham-Kent are set to receive high-speed Internet after Chatham-Kent received $19.3 million for broadband upgrades.
Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) made the announcement on Monday morning. SWIFT’s mandate is to connect 22 per cent of the underserved populations in Southwestern Ontario.
Approximately 4,584 households and businesses will receive the high-speed services over the next 18 months. More than 225 kilometers of fibre will be laid throughout the municipality.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff said high-speed services moved from being a luxury to a requirement for rural business, and expects to see economic growth from the upgrades.
“This is a big issue in rural areas. I talked to people who said they want to move to rural areas but they have no access (to high-speed internet) so this will help more people stay and relocate in rural areas.”
Canniff also applauded SWIFT members who ensured the municipality could receive funding for the project. Originally Chatham-Kent was not eligible for the funding because it was made available to municipalities with less than 100,000 residents.
“But municipalities rallied to help share the money with us so this is a really good story of co-operation,” said Canniff.
SWIFT leveraged $7.4 million in funding contributions made by its member municipalities, including investments from Chatham-Kent. The remaining $11.9 million of funding was provided by the two local service providers, TekSavvy and Cogeco Connexion.
Cogeco was awarded one $9.4 million contract to service the Erie Beach region with work expected to be completed in 2023.
TekSavvy received the remaining four contracts, totalling more than $9.8 million, which will service the Tupperville, Duart and Mitchell’s Bay regions, as well as Morivantown.
“This will be a game changer for the Delaware Nation, here at Moraviantown. Especially for our youth, who will be the real benefactors of this technology,” stated Chief Denise Stonefish, Delaware Nation – Moravian of the Thames, in a press release.