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Proposal targets rural celluar dead zones

Prince Edward County is throwing its upport behind efforts by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to seek federal and provincial support to improve cellular coverage in the region.

“Gaps in cellular services are standing in the way of the region’s economic growth and public safety,” the EORN stated in a press release Tuesday.

“The demand for mobile data is growing exponentially, but our region is deeply lacking the needed infrastructure to keep up,” said Robert Quaiff, EOWC chair and mayor of Prince Edward County. “This project is our top priority because Eastern Ontario’s future is at stake.”

The EORN is proposing a $213 million public-private partnership to improve both the reach and quality of cellular data services in the region.

An engineering study commissioned by EORN states about one quarter of the area where there are homes, businesses or major roads in the region cannot access any cellular services.

Depending on the cell carrier, another 28 to to 40 per cent of the area has inadequate capacity to provide high-quality mobile broadband service.

The gaps, the report states, are the result of market failure as rural areas don’t generate enough revenue for cell carriers to build adequate services.

“Too often, Eastern Ontarians find themselves with no signal or dropped cell services. EORN is building on the investment we’ve already made in fibre optics across the region to close the gap in cell services and improve economic growth, quality of life and public safety,” said Murray Jones, EORN chair.

The CRTC recently designated both mobile and fixed broadband as basic services for all Canadians. A public-private partnership, EORN states, would reduce carriers’ infrastructure costs, creating a stronger business case to improve services and meet the CRTC’s basic services goals.

The EORN has submitted a detailed business case for cell expansion to the federal and provincial governments. The proposal also includes a dedicated, public safety broadband network to seamlessly connect first responders region-wide.

Building both networks together would cost about $299 million, saving about $47 million compared to building them separately

The EORN, a non-profit created by the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), helped to improve fixed broadband access to nearly 90 per cent of Eastern Ontario through a $175 million network funded by the federal, provincial and municipal governments and the private sector service providers.

The EOWC directed EORN to prepare and submit a project proposal to improve access to mobile broadband services and support the creation of a public safety broadband network.

Filed Under: Local News

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