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In an announcement today in Wakefield, Quebec, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced the launch of Connect to Innovate, giving a name to the program promised in the 2016 Budget to expand broadband in rural and remote communities across Canada. Budget 2016 committed $500 million over five years, starting in 2016-2017, to deliver on the Government of Canada’s priority of increasing high-speed broadband coverage by extending and enhancing broadband service in rural and remote communities, and Connect to Innovate will be the program to direct that investment.

“Ultra-high speed Internet connectivity is critical to rural economic development and the Connect to Innovate program is great news for rural and remote Canadians,” said SWIFT Board Chair Gerry Marshall. “This announcement makes the Budget 2016 commitments real and tangible and will complement our work at SWIFT as we build broadband for everyone.”

“SWIFT will cover more than 350 communities across over 20 counties and municipalities in southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and Niagara Region,” said Executive Director Geoff Hogan. “Connect to Innovate will provide complementary investments to help expand broadband access across the country while we work to connect the nearly 10% of the Canadian population that lives, works, and plays in the region served by SWIFT.”

The Connect to Innovate announcement follows the federal and provincial government’s commitment to invest $180 million in SWIFT through the New Building Canada Fund’s Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component–Small Communities Fund. SWIFT was created by the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, which represents 15 counties and more than three million residents in southwestern Ontario. In addition to leadership and significant investment from the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus and funding from the federal and provincial governments, the Region of Niagara, Town of Caledon and City of Orillia are also supporting the project as full members. SWIFT has received support from the Southern First Nations Secretariat, school boards, colleges, universities and health care organizations.

The SWIFT Initiative is based on the principle that everyone in Western Ontario deserves access to high-speed Internet, regardless of the size of their community, their age, education, or where they work. SWIFT will build an affordable, open-access, ultra-high-speed fibre-optic regional broadband network for everyone in southwestern Ontario and Niagara Region.

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