Ultra-high speed Internet connectivity is critical to rural economic development and Southwestern Ontario is another step closer to seeing the development of a project that will have a major impact on the region’s current and future vitality.
The Southwest Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) initiative continues to gain momentum as the project moves toward realization. The Province of Ontario gave the SWIFT project the green light to proceed to the next step in the funding process under the New Building Canada Fund. Staff working on the SWIFT initiative submitted a comprehensive funding application and business case just before the holiday break, achieving a new milestone in the SWIFT project timeline. A funding decision is expected from the provincial government in the coming weeks.
The SWIFT project has also been gathering support across the region, with the Stratford Economic Enterprise Development Corporation (SEED Co.) and the Grey Bruce Health Services both committing $10,000 in funding to support the realization of an ultra-high speed fibre-optic regional broadband network. In addition, the project has received several dozen letters of support from school boards, separated municipalities, hospital networks, businesses, residents, and telecommunications service providers. These letters were submitted along with the funding application to demonstrate the growing grassroots support for the SWIFT initiative.
“SWIFT will be a game changer for this region. Without it, rural areas like ours cannot hope to be competitive in the globalized economy. For regions like Grey Bruce and employers like Grey Bruce Health Services that are seeking to attract and retain talent and sustain growth, having an integrated ultra-high speed broadband network is essential,” said Lance Thurston, President and CEO of Grey Bruce Health Services.
“Stratford has a proven record built on progressive companies leading in the global economy. Already well positioned within Stratford’s own Rhyzome Networks, Stratford agrees with advancing the economic future and sees the advantage for a strengthened economic region in the digital economy,” said SEED Co. CEO Marlene Coffey.
“Submitting the funding application to the New Canada Building Fund represents a major milestone for the project and we are extremely pleased to have the support of the SEED Co. and Grey Bruce Health Services,” said SWIFT Initiative Staff Lead Geoff Hogan. “The support of partners like SEED Co. and Grey Bruce Health Services, in addition to the ongoing support and championing by the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and its members, demonstrates the importance and impact of what the SWIFT project will accomplish for Southwestern Ontario.”
The SWIFT Initiative is based on the principle that everyone in Western Ontario deserves access to high-speed Internet, regardless of the size of their community, their age, education, or where they work. Under the leadership of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, SWIFT will create an affordable, open-access, ultra-high-speed fibre-optic regional broadband network for everyone in Western Ontario. The supporters of SWIFT are applying for $162 million dollars in funding matched by $81 million contributed by supporters and telecommunications service providers for a total of $240 million.