Another Lambton internet project okayed but service won’t be ready until 2022

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It will be April 2021 before construction begins on a $5.8 million high speed internet project in East Lambton.

Brooke Telecom has been selected as the contractor to deliver high speed internet to rural Lambton County starting next year.

Parliamentary Assistant Randy Pettapiece, speaking on behalf of Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman, made the announcement Friday at a news conference at the home of Brooke-Alvinston Mayor Dave Ferguson.

He was joined by Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, who is also the MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex and Sarnia-Lambton MP Bob Bailey.

“For too long people in rural parts of Ontario have been without high speed internet,” says McNaughton. “Driving to the local Tim Hortons should be a stop for coffee – not to get online.”

The contract was awarded by the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project, which aims to deliver broadband internet to rural southwestern Ontario. It’s worth around $5.8 million and will see approximately 150 km of broadband infrastructure created to bring internet to 536 homes. Construction doesn’t start until April 2021.

“It allows families to stay in touch and connects local businesses with their communities and the world,” says Pettapiece. “When complete this project will help communities and businesses in Lambton County better compete in global markets, attract new jobs, and improve quality of life.”

This is the fifth SWIFT contract awarded in Lambton County, following four last year.

“The county stepped up with a very sizeable contribution to the project to make this happen. I think it really goes to show what can happen when the federal, provincial and municipal governments get together to try and make a project work,” says SWIFT executive director Barry Field.

“Brooke Telecom stepped up and were very open to negotiating certain things within the project to make sure it fell within our budget.”

Field added the COVID crisis highlighted the poor conditions of internet in rural Ontario. “If anybody had any reservations about whether rural broadband was important before COVID happened, those reservations are gone now,” says Field.

“All levels of government see the importance of it. Education, business, working from home – all of these aspects that have come to the forefront have shown how important broadband really is.”

The new infrastructure will assist homes in Brooke-Alvinston, Enniskillen, Petrolia, Plympton-Wyoming and Warwick. Work is scheduled to begin in April 2021 and be finished by November 2022.

The government also announced the beginning of broadband construction at the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation on Friday.

A $2.7 million contract awarded to Execulink will lay down 35 km of fibre optic cable in the First Nation community. Work should be completed by the end of the year.

The work on four other projects, in Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores and St. Clair Township, is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

Lambton County first agreed to be part of the SWIFT cooperative to bring fiber optic internet to the rural areas in 2016.