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Broadband in rural Man. set to improve

Broadband in rural Man. set to improve

The Manitoba government will use existing fibre-optic network to improve connectivity

 
Staff Writer
Farms.com

On May 15, the Government of Manitoba announced plans to bring rural, northern and Indigenous communities up to speed with broadband.

“The need for economic diversification and development for Manitoba rural and northern communities has been ignored far too long. As urban areas reap the reward of technological innovation, many of our rural communities are being left behind,” said Jeff Wharton, Crown services minister, in a livestream of the announcement.

The plan is to use the existing fibre-optic cable installed by Manitoba Hydro, which was intended to communicate with northern hydroelectric facilities and transmit data. Since much of this system hasn’t been used and there are no plans to use it in the future, the government hopes to take advantage of the already Manitoba-owned system.

“Quite frankly (Manitoba Hydro) overbuilt the system, which is now a benefit to Manitobans in rural and northern communities and Indigenous communities,” Wharton said in the livestream.

There currently isn’t a set date for when Manitobans will start seeing improvements, said Wharton in a written statement to Farms.com.

“Building broadband networks are big projects so we don’t expect new capacity to be made available using the Hydro fibre assets for at least another 18 months,” he said.

A request for proposal is set to go out in the coming months to find a telecommunication company to use the existing system to improve broadband and cellular service.

“We are confident that this approach will result in viable proposals to extend high-speed Internet services into underserved and unserved communities,” Wharton said in the statement to Farms.com.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of broadband connectivity and the need to ensure people across the province have access to critical information, such as distance-learning programs or Internet-based mental health services.”

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