Final decision requested
Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology Inc. (SWIFT) addressed County Council last week regarding Capital Agreement
For several months the Huron County Council has seen presentations made by Geoff Hogan, Executive Director of Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology Inc. (SWIFT).
Last week, Hogan made another appearance, and did not only updating the Council on what the fibre technology project could bring to Huron County in terms of better and faster connectivity to Internet.
“We all know that agriculture depends on technology. What SWIFT is doing – we are first and foremost a regional project – is treat Southwestern Ontario as a region,” explained Hogan.
“When you think about health care delivery or edu- cation deliver y, Huron [ County] is not on its own on the shores of Lake Huron; you’re part of a larger system. That’s the same thing that SWIFT is – it’s a larger system that connects you out to the world and connecting buildings, farms and businesses in the community.”
Hogan requested that a final decision on the SWIFT Membership Capital Agreement bemade by September 15, 2017.
The Agreement is one that Huron County will support the project by investing and funding just under $700, 000.
“Your contribution would be about $ 678, 000. Our contract states that Huron County would get absolutely guaranteed, four- times the investment in your local region. [The invested money for the infrastructure] will be given to the providers, as grants, to build infrastructure,” explained Hogan.
According to Hogan, through the Capital Agreement Contract, there is a guaranteed return of $ 2.7 million to Huron County, once the fibre technology infrastructure project begins in 2018.
If no providers bid on the contract to build the infrastructure, then there is no project and the money that was invested would be returned in full.
In many rural areas, Internet connectivity is not only an important feature for many agricultural operations within the County, but is one that is currently not reliable.
The current infrastructure does not support strong connectivity to the homes, farming operations and smaller towns.
SWIFT’s project is supported by $288 million that has been allocated by federal, provincial, municipal and private funding. ($90M from federal funding; $90M from provincial funding; $90M from private/municipal funding; and $18M from municipal funding.)
“This is money that has been allocated to this project. There were 900 applications. There are 300 from Ontario. There are 189 projects in Southwestern Ontario asking for $ 180 Million, of which, this project is one,” added Hogan on the federal funding.
“We are advocating a lot at SWIFT trying to get the government to raise more money. We need more grant type funding to make sure that Southwestern Ontario gets connected.”
One of the main concerns by Hogan was that if SWIFT does not enter an agreement and contract with Huron County by the time federal and provincial funding deadlines come, SWIFT will have to re-apply for funding.
If this is the case, Hogan added that without the support of Huron County, the amounts in funding that have been decided upon would most likely change. That is the reason for the urgency of an answer from Huron County Council.
According to Hogan, there are currently 28 providers ( Internet service companies) who are willing to bid to take over the fibre tech- nology once the project has been completed. Some of those companies include Bell, Eastlink and Rogers.
“We were really please to see that many results in this area. We plan to start building in 2018,” added Hogan.
“SWIFT is the only funding that is committed by the government, for broadband in the region. We will start building infrastructure next year and will continue to fund fibre in lower density communities.”
This project is one that will affect many in the County, especially farming and agricultural operations that rely on superb connectivity.
A question was proposed by some Councillors, which asked what local providers thought of the SWIFT project.
Knowing the urgency of the deadlines for approval and funding, it was decided upon that local service providers be invited to the nextmeeting to voice their support or opposition of the project.
Huron County Council is to receive a report on the project, including facts and figures, and will adhere to the request of SWIFT, and come to a decision by September 13 at the next Council meeting.