Internet sped up in rural communities

By Carl Clutchey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Chronicle-Journal

Sections of a major Tbaytel high-speed internet expansion currently rolling out in half a dozen communities just outside Thunder Bay are up and running and already have some subscribers signed up, the utility said Thursday.

“The project is ongoing, however, we do have some customers currently subscribing to fibre (optic) services in the areas that have been previously launched,” said Tbaytel spokeswoman Renae Backen.

Construction on the $36-million upgrade began last year. It aims to connect 2,565 households in the following municipalities: Conmee, Gillies, O’Connor, Neebing, Oliver-Paipoonge and Shuniah.

All six municipalities are to be equipped with the fibre-optic option by the end of 2025, Tbaytel says.

Many residents living in the affected areas have had to make do with low-speed internet, or by accessing high-speed through satellite-based services like Starlink.

As a stop-gap measure during the COVID-19 pandemic, some municipalities that did have high-speed capability offered it to their taxpayers.

Tbaytel claims the dedicated fibre link will “provide unlimited bandwidth through a direct connection to homes or businesses.”

“In addition to the benefits that can be felt across multiple sectors ranging from education, health care, social services and information technology, access to fibre technology can also mean an exceptional telecommunications and entertainment experience,” a utility backgrounder said.

Potential customers living in the six municipalities can keep track of when the service will be available in their neighbourhood on a Tbaytel link:

In 2021, the provincial and federal governments earmarked $1.2 billion combined “to support large-scale, fibre-based projects that will provide high-speed internet access to more than 280,000 homes across Ontario.”

A provincial backgrounder released this week said the province remains committed to “bringing reliable high-speed internet access to every community by the end of 2025.”