Eighteen Northeastern Ontario communities now have access to high-speed Internet as a result of a nearly $5.5 million investment in information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in the region.

“In today’s economy, high speed access has become an essential tool for both individuals and companies and is important from economic, community, health care, education and business perspectives,” said Michel Desjardins, Chair of NEOnet (the Northeastern Ontario Communications Network), which spearheaded the project. “Doing business today requires access to superior ICT infrastructure and services. We thank Ontera for delivering on the construction and implementation of this essential infrastructure, as well as the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) and FedNor for their investment in our communities.”

“Expanding high-speed Internet and cellular services to these Northeastern Ontario communities will have significant, far-reaching benefits for thousands of residents, as well as for businesses in the region,” said Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry and Chair of the NOHFC. “With high-speed Internet, for example, residents will have better access to health and government services, and distance education opportunities.”

Since the end of February, Ontera, the telecommunications division of Ontario Northland, has been providing high-speed Internet access to the eighteen participating communities: Town of Latchford, North Milne, Temagami North, Goodfish Lake, Hough Lake, Chamberlain Township, Coleman Township, King Kirkland, Township of Gauthier, Gowganda, Nettie Lake, Foleyet, Chaput Hughes, Gogama, Sesekinika, Kenogami, Westree and Shining Tree.

“Access to high-speed Internet is no longer considered a luxury. Areas that remain without access to a reliable high-speed Internet connection are at a significant disadvantage,” said Paul Goulet, Acting President and CEO of Ontario Northland. “Thanks to this project, these 18 communities are now able to compete on a more even playing field with other regions across the country and throughout the world as broadband access reduces the barriers of distance, geography, and lack of services. Ontera is very proud to have contributed to such a significant social and economic development project.”

The Timiskaming and Gogama-Foleyet Area Broadband Project was based on stakeholder input. “Our mission is to equalize access to the health, education and social services that our urban counterparts take for granted, and offer our youth a viable alternative to leaving the North,” said Desjardins.

Ontera established a wireless broadband network using the Canopy Advantage system manufactured by Motorola Canada Ltd. This system provides a broadband, wireless, last-mile link to subscribers and is particularly well suited to servicing dispersed, low-density population bases such as the communities involved in the project. The system features a number of wireless points-of-presence (POPs) also referred to as access points (AP). AP clusters are located at tower sites in all 18 of the participating communities. The wireless network is connected to Ontera’s existing fibre optic back-haul network at Timmins, Kirkland Lake, Englehart, New Liskeard and Temagami. The project took just over two years to complete.