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City looking to fix broadband agonies in Ward 5

With Saultites working and studying at home because of the pandemic, west end residents are hamstrung by execrable broadband service
Ward 5 boundaries
Ward 5 is shown in blue on this map of city ward boundaries

City staff are scrambling to apply for a next-generation broadband pilot project fully paid by the federal government.

They're facing a tight deadline – Friday, Aug. 21 – for applications for the initiative, which will be aimed at improving access to broadband infrastructure in Ward 5, comprising the city's west end.

"Many residents of Ward 5 are working remotely from their residence due to the COVID-19 pandemic," says Tom Vair, deputy chief administrative officer for community development and enterprise services.

"Broadband infrastructure and service is now a basic requirement for citizens to access services for health, education and commerce. The lack of digital infrastructure in this area of our community inhibits residents and businesses from working remotely and makes it more difficult in attracting residents to our community to enjoy the quality lifestyle the community can offer."

"Seniors and residents with disabilities also require quality internet services for home support and monitoring systems," Vair says in a report to Mayor Provenzano and ward councillors.

"With the increasing demand for on-line municipal services, email communications, on-line cultural development, social media, distance learning, telemedicine, remote medical monitoring, on-line homework/assignment submission for students, support for on-line business, and increasing need for on-line options to work from home, there is urgent need for high-performance, low-latency residential broadband access in Northern Ontario communities."

CENGN (Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks) issued a call for submissions to a northern Ontario residential broadband program on Aug. 4.

That gave the city little more than two and a half weeks to prepare its application.

Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) will work with city staff on the submission, which will include a geographic information system (GIS) review and surveys.

"SSMIC has experience with CENGN and has completed other successful pilot projects under other rounds of this program in the Algoma region," Vair says.

"Within the community, there are areas where residents are underserviced with access to broadband infrastructure and services due to limitations of telecommunication providers related to costs or low return on investment."

"This program seeks applications to trial new technology approaches that can offer an improved level of broadband access to unserved communities such as new residential broadband ecosystems."

"The outcome of the program is to share technical solutions with other northern Ontario communities looking for access or improvements to residential broadband solutions in their community," Vair says.

City Council will be asked Monday to green-light the Sault's bid for a pilot broadband project for Ward 5.

The meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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