Questions about SWIFT? We have answers.

Below, you’ll find answers to some of the common questions we get asked about SWIFT.

What is SWIFT?

Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) is a non-profit regional broadband project initiated by the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus and approved for funding under the New Building Canada Fund – Small Communities Fund (NBCF-SCF), a joint federal and provincial infrastructure funding program.

Delivered in partnership with member municipalities and drawing on the strength of the region’s collective voice, SWIFT will oversee a $209 million broadband expansion plan to increase access to high-speed connectivity in eligible funding areas across Southwestern Ontario.

Who will benefit from SWIFT funded projects

SWIFT’s broadband expansion plan targets underserved areas across Southwestern Ontario, mainly rural communities, that do not have access to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) Universal Service Objective of 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up (50/10).

How is funding awarded?

SWIFT will issue Request for Proposals (RFPs) to invite prequalified service providers to submit network designs to address broadband service gaps in eligible funding areas throughout Southwestern Ontario.

A team consisting of SWIFT staff and a municipal representative will evaluate all compliant proposals against the assessment criteria to identify high-quality projects that maximize outcomes. SWIFT will then select and award funding to the projects that score the highest based on the evaluation process.

The assessment criteria includes the following factors and focuses on best outcomes:

  • Premises/households passed
  • Number of fibre kilometres constructed
  • Technology scalability towards symmetrical 1Gbps service
  • Service provider contribution proportion
  • Residential rate for 50/10 service
  • Timeline to complete project
  • Ability to meet project objectives

Who will own the funded infrastructure one once construction is completed?

Service providers will build, own and operate the network with SWIFT maintaining 51% ownership of the funded asset for 7 years.

The funded infrastructure will be based on open access principles and will be accessible to competing providers to leverage to enable greater marketplace competition.

How many households, businesses and buildings of public interest will SWIFT connect?

SWIFT’s goal is to connect all underserved communities across Southwestern Ontario and while the project is currently overseeing a $209 million broadband expansion plan to connect 22% of the region’s underserved premises over the next 3 years, not all underserviced areas will be connected during this phase of the project.

If you would like to find out if you are located in an eligible funding area, click here. .

When will the remaining underserved households and businesses not connected by SWIFT’s expansion plan receive high-speed internet?

SWIFT will leverage approximately $209 million in combined investments from the federal and provincial governments and private sector investors, as well as funding from municipal partners to expand and improve high-speed connectivy across the project region.  However, in order to continue to address the remaining service gaps, additional funding is required.

SWIFT, established by the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus (WOWC), will continue to work with the WOWC to seek additional funding opportunities for greater broadband expansion across the remaining underserviced areas within the region.

Why can't my community connect me directly?

In Ontario, very few municipalities have undertaken owning and operating community broadband networks (for example: Kingston and Stratford). While it’s considered a basic telecommunications service, broadband access is not considered a core service for local governments (or governments at any level), so there is no mandate and limited resources for municipalities to own and operate a broadband network. Most municipalities face the same pressures as consumers when it comes to choosing affordable broadband – including lack of choice and lack of influence in the market.

There is also a significant lack of information about where existing infrastructure exists and about the powers of municipalities to compel broadband network construction – leading to some myths and misunderstandings. Before and without SWIFT, municipalities are limited in their ability to influence service providers to build infrastructure and there is little incentive for service providers to build where they do not perceive a significant return on investment. This is the key reason why the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, an organization representing 15 upper and single tier municipalities in Southwestern Ontario, initiated the SWIFT project and additional municipal partners have joined  – to increase local government influence and ensure broadband networks are built and services are extended to communities that need them.

When will I get better service as a result of SWIFT?

SWIFT has already fundamentally changed the way the public sector is investing in broadband, and with the recent CRTC ruling that Internet is a basic telecommunications service, the work that SWIFT is doing in partnership with its stakeholders should accelerate the long-range forecast for when Ontarians can expect affordable, high-speed broadband service. SWIFT encourages residents to reach out to elected officials and local community leaders to underscore how important broadband infrastructure is to your life and livelihood, and to encourage them to explore ways that additional funding programs may be used to support local broadband projects that align with SWIFT.

What is the role of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC)?

Residential Internet users are retail customers who buy Internet services from an independent service provider or large cable or telephone company. The CRTC regulates radio, television and telecommunications services in Canada – but does not usually regulate the prices or the way Internet services are billed to retail customers. At the wholesale level, the CRTC requires that large companies sell access to their networks under specific terms and conditions. Service providers also use this access, in conjunction with their own networks, to offer Internet and other services to their own retail customers. You can learn more about how the CRTC sets wholesale rates at: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/internet/facbill.htm

What does the CRTC ruling on broadband as a basic telecommunications service mean for SWIFT?

On December 21, 2016, the CRTC ruled that all Canadians – including rural and remote communities – should have access to broadband Internet service. They also set new targets for these services:

  • Speeds of at least 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload (fixed broadband services)
  • Unlimited data option for fixed broadband services
  • The latest mobile wireless technology available not only to all homes and businesses, but also along all major Canadian roads

What does the CRTC ruling on broadband as a basic telecommunications service mean for consumers?

The CRTC has set a target of connecting 90% of Canadians to Internet services that meet their target speeds within five years (2021), with the rest of the country being connected by 2031. There is no easy, immediate solution for connecting many of the rural and remote communities that are currently facing the biggest hurdle to accessing the CRTC target speeds. The ruling also did not set any benchmarks for ensuring Internet services are affordable. If you live in the SWIFT region, the CRTC ruling means that the federal regulatory body has endorsed the principles we’ve been advocating for since 2011 – which is good news for helping accelerate our work through increased participation and cooperation with our partners and with service providers. The most important news is the momentum that comes from the combination of the federal budget commitments to broadband investments in rural and remote communities, the CRTC ruling, and the federal and provincial investment in SWIFT. Taken together, they point to our region likely exceeding both the service targets and the achievement dates on several fronts.

What can I do if I'm unsatisfied with my Internet service?

If you are unsatisfied with your Internet service, we suggest raising these issues with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to see if they can be resolved. ISPs are ultimately responsible for the equipment they offer, their billing and marketing practices, their quality of service and customer relations. If you have issues with your ISP, you should contact their customer service lines and escalate your concerns up to the manager level (if necessary). If your issues cannot be resolved or your Internet service does not improve, there are at least two courses of action you can take:

  1. Switch ISPs:
    • You are free to switch Internet service providers. To see which ISPs currently provide service in your area, enter your address in the Government of Canada’s Eligibility Map.
  2. Make a complaint:
    • You may wish to bring your concerns to the attention of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), an independent organization that has been established to provide consumers and small businesses with recourse when they are unable to resolve disagreements with their telecommunications service providers. For more information concerning the CCTS, including how to file a complaint, please visit the CCTS website at www.ccts-cprst.ca/en/complaints/guide. The CCTS can also be reached toll-free at 1-888-221-1687, or by mail at P.O. Box 81088, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1B1.
    • If your issue falls outside of the mandate of the CCTS, you may wish to contact the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC): Canada toll-free: 1-877-249-CRTC (2782) or toll-free TTY line: 1-877-909-CRTC (2782).

How can I support SWIFT?

We appreciated the great support we received from citizens, businesses, and organizations across the region as we worked toward securing funding. Now, as we work toward implementing the project, we still welcome your stories about why SWIFT is important to you and why you want to see the project succeed. Your continued support and engagement through letters of support, following and interacting with us on social media, and expressing your support to your community leaders are all critical to helping us continue to move forward.