‘There is physically no internet,’ says mayor on parts of town, with prospect of government-led high-speed internet projects for lacking residents for staff to explore
The announcement last month of Simcoe County high-speed internet caught the attention of Penetanguishene Mayor Doug Rawson during a recent committee-of-the-whole meeting.
“I know while out campaigning (in the 2022 municipal elections), there were several members of the community that had mentioned to me no availability of internet access in the community at all,” said Rawson.
“At the end of Pine Grove Road and Gordon Drive — that whole section of the community — there is physically no internet.”
The discussion was brought about by a November announcement by SWIFT (Southwestern Integrated Fiber Technology), a non-profit, municipally led broadband expansion project aimed at bringing high-speed internet to rural communities across Ontario and buss farms farms. More than 1,645 Simcoe County were earmarked, with a further pledge to connect every community with high-speed internet access in the province by the end of 2025.
Rawson looked to CAO Jeff Lees for guidance on how to get Penetanguishene on the initiative and help serve residents. Lees suggested bringing the matter to Simcoe County council would be the best method through its involvement in the project.
“When you go on the SWIFT website, they have a map,” said Lees.
“The SWIFT map is a good tool to see where the projects sit in the queue, in terms of whether they’re approved, in progress, or somewhere in between. It’s a little bit disheartening to see that, aside from a little pocket on the northwest corner of town, on Champlain Road from Robbs Road to Beechcroft Road — aside from that little pocket, there isn’t really a great success story for our residents in Penetanguishene.”
With a lighthearted tone, Rawson shared he was advising people on the campaign trail to access the town website for further details, which was unlikely due to their non-connectivity issues.
Public works director Bryan Murray noted Bell Canada had installed high-speed internet along parts of Penetanguishene’s west shore on Champlain Road over the summer, with Deputy Mayor Dan La Rose adding his own residence in that area had been serviced.
“Being one of those people past Beechcroft, we were hooked up by Bell Fibe,” said La Rose. “They came by my house a month-and-a-half ago or so and it’s a massive difference.”
In addition to the SWIFT fiber-optic network, a national initiative called the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) was launched in 2020 as a $2.75-billion project to support high-speed internet in rural and remote communities across the country; internet service availability map can be accessed through the UBF website.
Council directed staff to put the high-speed internet agenda item onto the finance and corporate services referral list for further conversation in a future meeting.
The SWIFT correspondence including project completion progress and plan overview can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.
Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.
Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.