As the average Canadian household moves deeper into the digital technological era due to COVID-19 economic lockdowns, schooling restrictions, and work-from-home policies, the need for high-speed internet to be readily available and accessible across the entire country is greater than ever before. Adding to the many challenges that have presented themselves in the past year, it’s been established that there are far too many rural and remote communities in Canada that lack access to quality, high-speed internet that many rely on for working, learning, and staying in touch with others.
To help Canadians access the high-speed internet they require to succeed in their everyday lives, the Government of Canada launched the $1.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) in November 2020. Recently, the federal government announced $2.2 million to local projects in Ontario funded through UBF’s Rapid Response Stream.
“High-speed internet service is essential to the success of everyone living and working in rural Ontario. This investment will bring reliable, high-speed internet access to 310 households in southwestern Ontario, helping create jobs, improving access to health care and online learning services, and keeping people connected to their loved ones.”
– Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development
What is the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF)?
The Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) was implemented to provide funding support to broadband infrastructure projects which will bring high-speed internet at 50/10 Megabits per second (Mbps) to rural and remote communities.
In addition to providing UBF funding to diversify the availability of high-speed internet to connect Canadians around the country, there is:
- Up to $50 million available to support mobile internet projects that primarily benefit Indigenous peoples, including projects along highways and roads where mobile connectivity is lacking.
- Up to $750 million available for large impact projects.
- Up to $150 million available as part of the Rapid Response Stream.
The federal government has stated that Canadian projects funded under the UBF, as well as through alternative public and private investments, will help connect 98% of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026, and help to achieve the national target of 100% connectivity by 2030.
The recent $2.2 million UBF investment will go towards the Niagara Regional Broadband Network and Mornington Communications Co-operative Limited to bring high-speed internet to rural residents in 310 underserved households located in the regions of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, Rothsay, Drayton, and St. Catharines.
“NRBN is thrilled to be working with the Government of Canada to continue expanding our fibre-optic network throughout Niagara. These investments will help provide access to reliable high-speed internet at a time when connectivity is essential to good quality of life. NRBN, being municipally owned and community focused, is proud to continue achieving our goal of helping more Canadians in Niagara get connected.”
– Geoff Heinen, President, Niagara Regional Broadband Network
The Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) is currently accepting applications until March 15th, 2021. For a full list of eligibility criteria and funding amounts, please refer to the official UBF page.
Government Grants and Loans Supporting Canadians
There are a variety of government funding programs that have been established in the last year to provide financial support and resources to citizens across Canada. A few of these programs currently providing grants and/or loans for pandemic relief include the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), and the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS). Each program has its own eligibility criteria, funding amount, and types of projects/costs it supports.
“In Canada, the pandemic brought in the largest economic changes to government of our lifetime, measures that have helped millions of people directly. For families, it meant the difference between being able to pay rent or having to move out, for businesses it meant keeping the lights on instead of going under.”
– Justin Trudeau, Prime Minster of Canada
For all updates, programs, and news related to government funding support options during the ongoing global pandemic, please visit our COVID-19 Support Page to learn about which programs may be applicable to you and/or your business for financial support.