On June 23, 2021, 145 households in the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Ojibways of the Pic River First Nation) community received high-speed internet through a successful funding opportunities project which received $208,000 from the Canadian government. Financing was allocated from the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF), a program initiated in November 2020.
“High-speed Internet is essential for Northern Ontario. It connects us to work, school and each other. Today’s investment will provide reliable access to 145 underserved households in Biigtigong Nishnaabeg. This project is part of our commitment of over $9.5 million for 11 connectivity projects in Ontario that will connect over 6,100 households in rural and Indigenous communities to better, more reliable Internet.”
– Bonnie Goodchild, General Manager, Pic River Development Corporation
The COVID-19 virus accelerated a global transition to online platforms for work, education, and more. Therefore, having reliable internet is necessary for all Canadians, yet many find themselves without it. To resolve this issue, Canadian officials have taken to immediate-response efforts such as the UBF.
What Is the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF)?
The UBF was designed to accelerate broadband infrastructure to rural and remote municipalities across Canada with a minimum benchmark of 50/10 Megabits/second (Mbps). The UBF is a pillar of the High Speed Access for all: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy, a larger government strategy designed to connect all Canadians. Currently, the proposed budget allows for $2.75 billion in funds through the UBF. Federal grants to municipalities, paired with UBF efforts, aim to connect 98% of our nation to high-speed internet before 2026 and 100% before 2030.
UBF funding is provided through the following streams:
- $750 million to fund large, high-impact projects.
- Up to $50 million for mobile projects that primarily benefit Indigenous peoples (including projects along low-connectivity areas such as highways and roads).
- Up to $150 million through a Rapid Response Stream for projects that can be completed in 2021.
$9.5 million has been allocated already, funding 11 successful projects like the broadband improvements in the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg community. Ten of the 11 projects have been driven by First Nations leaders connecting almost 3,000 Indigenous homes.
How Is Canada Addressing Internet Access?
Progress has been made to improve internet access for many Canadians but there is still a large connectivity gap to close. Moreover, the primary obstacle with rural internet conditions is speed. Though many areas of rural Canada have bare-minimum internet, the poor quality can hinder the quality of experience due to slow load times, spotty connection, and missed business opportunities.
“In my travels as Minister, I have heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast that access to affordable high-speed Internet and mobile wireless coverage is critical to the continued vibrancy and success of rural Canada. The Internet is driving social and economic progress on a scale that is comparable with past leaps forward, like bringing electricity into our communities. It increases our quality of life, and our country’s prosperity.”
– Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Rural Economic Development
A study performed in 2017 found that only 37% of rural Canadians had access to the recommended 50/10 Mbps compared to their urban counterparts who sit at 97% access. The Canadian government’s hope is that more successful investments will remedy this divide.
What Funding Is Available for First Nations?
A variety of programs are available to Indigenous communities that meet eligibility requirements:
Please refer to our Government Funding Directory for a complete list of funding opportunities.
Government Funding & Canadian Municipality Support
To read more about federal grants for municipalities visit our Canadian Municipality Funding Programs page. Think you qualify for government funding? Contact a Mentor Works representative today to get the ball rolling.