Fi­nal de­ci­sion re­quested

South­west­ern In­te­grated Fi­bre Tech­nol­ogy Inc. (SWIFT) ad­dressed County Council last week re­gard­ing Cap­i­tal Agree­ment

The Goderich Signal-Star - - NEWS - KATH­LEEN SMITH Goderich Sig­nal Star

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.

POST­MEDIA NET­WORK FILE PHOTO

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