Saturday 8 August 2009

Broadband Canada Impact

This blog refers to to this article in SooToday or the original release with the same info.

As of the writing of this blog, neither I nor any of my colleagues have any idea what the impact of the federal announcement and the follow-up provincial announcement later the same day will have on northern Ontario.

The former (because his position was made redundant last week) broadband coordinator at the MNDMF office in Thunder Bay told me orally that MNDMF/NOHFC would not support any funding for areas that were identified in the CRTC Deferral Account documents. St Joseph Island was one such area as were parts of Echo Bay, Prince Township, the SSM-Airport area and Goulais River.

The Deferral Account issue is still waiting for the Supreme Court of Canada decision which is expected in September. Bell Aliant has divulged to me that they are very confident that they will win the argument and are really to start installing Deferral Account areas almost immediately. They figure it may take up to four years to finish all of the 300 plus areas identified in the Deferral Account program. At the moment, St Joseph is identified as scheduled for late the first year or early the second year and will cover the entire Island. If the Supreme Court rules against Bell, all bets are off.

Neither the federal or provincial sites have explicit directions on how to access the money being announced or what the procedures will be. Even the broad strokes are confusing – the federal site says 50/50 fed/industry funding while the provincial site says 33/33/33 fed/prov/industry funding.

Also, the $225M the feds are identifying is spread over three years for all of Canada. Based on the information provided by the province, it looks like they expect to receive about $10M per year for three years of the federal money. Using the 1/3 formula this could total of $90M over three years for province-wide coverage of the unserved areas (minus the Deferral Account areas.)

I wrote a letter to the Executive Director, NOHFC asking for a clear policy statement on funding and a recommended way to proceed. I am still awaiting a reply which would indicate to me they will be making things up on the fly.  

I am also in contact with the federal coordinator for Ontario who is located in Toronto so he must have a good understanding of northern Ontario needs.

There is a chance for you to provide some feed back to the government at this site . You can subscribe to the federal mailing list at this site and receive the latest confusing announcements.

The bottom line is that at the moment the impact all these announcements will have is still up in the air.

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