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Utilities & Rural Services – OVERVIEW

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Internet service in Cottage Country

Broadband internet service is a critical part of rural infrastructure and essential to support residents, local businesses and our communities. FOCA recognizes the limitations currently experienced by rural Ontarians, and is supportive of the expansion of high speed Internet and cellular coverage throughout rural and northern Ontario.

Recent News

August 4, 2022: Ontario Bringing High-Speed Internet Access to More Communities (Province of Ontario) – announced they have signed agreements with 8 service providers, and committed nearly $4 billion to bring high-speed internet access to up to 266,000 unserved and underserved homes and businesses by the end of 2025

May 26, 2022 – EORN’s cell gap project progressing with tower upgrades and planned construction (Belleville Intelligencer)

May 26, 2022 – Closing the gap on high speed service – large investment going into the Hastings County area (Quinte News) – it is anticipated that about 265 new towers will be required across Eastern Ontario; more than 170 existing towers need to be upgraded.

April 2021 – the Ontario Legislature passed the Supporting Broadband Infrastructure Expansion Act 2021, committing nearly $4 billion to connect every region in Ontario to reliable, high-speed internet by the end of 2025. Read more online here. 

April 2022 – the governments of Canada and Ontario are investing $1.7 million to bring fast, reliable high-speed internet to more than 800 homes, farms and businesses in Huron County by July 2022. In addition, through the partnership known as SWIFT (Southwestern Integrated Fibre Techonology – more on that, below), a new broadband network has been constructed and will soon connect more than 440 properties in Huron and Bruce counties to high-speed internet. This is in addition to 1000 properties in the region that will be served by September 2022. Read the news release from the province. (download PDF, 3 pages)

April 2022 – New Rogers Communications Port Elgin tower to deliver 5G service (Owen Sound Sun Times) – “To minimize the visual impact of a 29-metre wireless telecommunications tower in north Port Elgin, Rogers Communications agreed to switch to a monopole design from the lattice style first proposed late last year. [Town of Saugeen Shores]”

April 2022 – The Kenora District Services Board has received funding to provide high-speed internet (with Starlink as the service provider) to those within the Kenora District who have limited or inadequate access to reliable, high-quality internet. Apply by August 31, 2022 (or until project funding has been fully allocated) for a rebate on up to 75% of the kit cost.

March 30, 2022 – Rogers Communications planned 70-meter tall tower location north of Bolton revised to “behind the tree line” after concerns raised during public consultation (BramptonGuardian.com)

March 22, 2022 – SpaceX increases Starlink Kit and Monthly Service Prices in U.S. and Beyond (TeslaNorth.com)

March 7, 2022 – Rogers 5G Expands to 10 New Communities as Part of Eastern Ontario Regional Network Project (GlobeNewsWire) – coverage extended to: Elizabethtown-Kitley, Petawawa, Greater Napanee, Russell, Hawkesbury, Selwyn, Mississippi Mills, South Glengarry, Pembroke, South Stormont.

February 24, 2022 – EORN update for Eastern Ontario: Project to close gaps in cell service progressing (TheWhig.com)

February 22, 2022 – Cogeco expands to 1200 homes in south Muskoka / Georgian Bay (GBTownship.ca)

February 9, 2022 – Rogers to broaden broadband access in Quinte West (Belleville Intelligencer)

January 26, 2022 – the Government of Canada announced over $6.9 million investment to bring high-speed Internet to households in Ontario, including areas of Muskoka. (South Muskoka Doppler Online)

image: asterix button> Check your Internet speed with the CIRA online test

(part of the map of results is pictured at the side)

Visit Ontario’s webpage for updates about projects in various areas: https://www.ontario.ca/page/connecting-ontario-improving-broadband-and-cellular-access

As FOCA members heard at the 2020 Fall Seminar, the federal government’s goal is for all Canadians to have access to high-speed Internet of at least 50 Megabits per second download and 10 megabits per second upload speeds (50/10). Information on the Universal Broadband Fund is online here.

The R2B2 research initiative offers complete solutions for Regional & Rural broadband action. Their research encompasses regional economic and geospatial analysis around broadband services and digital infrastructure to identify current and future needs.

R2B2 also provides support to municipalities on broadband data analytics. These collaborative projects include residential and business Internet user surveys; this data can inform public sector business plans for broadband deployment, and consumer education around Internet performance in rural areas. FOCA encourages you to visit the following sites to have your say:

Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT)  – a non profit municipally-led broadband expansion project created to improve internet connectivity in underserved communities and rural areas across Southwestern Ontario. which includes all of SW Ontario, Niagara Region and Caledon: https://swiftruralbroadband.ca/resources/r2b2-survey/

Oro-Medonte Twphttps://www.oro-medonte.ca/connectoromedonte

Durham Regionhttps://www.durham.ca/en/economic-development/invest-and-grow/telecommunications.aspx

City of Hamilton: https://www.hamilton.ca/city-initiatives/strategies-actions/hamilton-residential-rural-farm-and-business-broadband-surveys

In eastern Ontario, EORN (the Eastern Ontario Rural Network) has been working to improve broadband and cell coverage.  This ongoing project covers 50,000 square kilometres, and now serves over 90% of this region of more than one million people with high-speed Internet service.

Earlier News:

August 7, 2021 – Provincial and federal governments commit funding for high speed internet projects (Quinte News)

July 26, 2021 – Ontario Bringing High-Speed Internet to More Communities  Ontario is investing up to $14.7 million in 13 projects to expand high-speed internet to more areas in Ontario through the Improving Connectivity for Ontario (ICON) programs

May 2021 – Huron Shore and Manitoulin Island Community Owned Fibre Infrastructure (H&M COFI).  H&M COFI and ROCK Networks are intending to building a high-speed broadband network for  residents in the region between Nairn Centre to Garden River First Nation, including the City of Elliot Lake, and Manitoulin and St. Joseph Islands. Interested residents in this region are encouraged to learn more in this backgrounder.

April 2021 – the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus  (EOWC) and the Eastern Ontario Mayors’ Caucus (EOMC) have signed and sent letters of support for the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) Cell Gap “Gig Project” to Minister Monsef and Minister Scott. The project would bring speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second to residents, cottage owners and businesses across the region.

FOCA member Associations in eastern Ontario are encouraged to send a letter of support to the Ministers as well, using a template provided by EORN. (download Word document, 1 page)

March 31, 2021 – Can Starlink solve northern Ontario’s broadband problem? (TVO)

Related: March 30, 2021 – Starlink Beta in Canada – A review of cost, speeds & coverage (Cansumer)

March 31, 2021 – Government of Canada invests to bring high-speed Internet to 1,550 more homes in southeastern Ontario (Government of Canada) Service improvements coming to  South River, Emsdale, Burk’s Falls, Sundridge, Greenhurst-Thurstonia, Dunsford and Pakenham, Ontario

March 19, 2021 – Better Cellular Services Coming to Eastern Ontario Residents and BusinessesRogers Communications’ investment brings the total value of the public-private partnership to more than $300 million (EORN)

February 21, 2021 – Internet speed test launched for North Shore and Manitoulin Island (Sudbury Star)

December 11, 2020 – SWIFT (see more below) announced that Simcoe County will receive $41 million in funding to support broadband upgrades for almost 13,000 households and businesses that have limited to no connectivity. Read the news.

November 2020 – Universal Broadband Fund Overview  (Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF))

November 2020 -The Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) has released two comprehensive resources tailored specifically for Ontario’s rural municipalities. The Municipal Primer gives an overview of the broadband landscape, including Canada’s regulatory framework, while the Municipal Roadmap lays out components of a municipal connectivity plan that municipalities can use to create local solutions. See more here.

November 9, 2020 – Trudeau promises to connect 98% of Canadians to high-speed internet by 2026. Announcement comes as Canadians spend more time online due to the pandemic (CBC News)

November 4, 2020 – Ontario investing $1B over 6 years to improve internet, cellphone service. According to Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan, “Ontario is committed to finding innovative solutions to ensure people and businesses have access to the high-speed internet and cellular services that they need”  (Global News)

October 20, 2020 – Why is getting — and staying — online still so difficult in eastern Ontario (TVO)

October 1, 2020 – Building a better Canada post-pandemic requires emergency funding for municipalities and a commitment to universal broadband to close the rural gap.  (Policy Options)

September 28, 2020 – Canada, and Ontario have committed to the construction of up to $16.6 million in broadband infrastructure in Dufferin County and the Town of Caledon , to extend high-speed fibre-optic broadband services and empower these communities  (Province of Ontario, SWIFT)

September 21, 2020 – District of Muskoka Council has unanimously approved initiating a Request for Proposal to conduct a broadband gap analysis and strategic implementation study for the Muskoka region. This is meant to map the District’s residences and businesses and determine their broadband connection speed. This information will be used to develop a plan to bring adequate broadband service to homes and businesses throughout Muskoka. See more info here.

September 20, 2020 – Northern towns push to approve Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet project ( CTV Northern Ontario)

September 11, 2020 – Northern municipalities fight for improved internet service  (North Bay Nugget)
Once you exclude the five large urban cities in Northern Ontario, you find that over 50 per cent of properties still have less than five Mbps service.  Municipalities are concerned that funding applications to the Provincial funding programs have been over-subscribed and the federal government has yet to announce their funding

Related: FedNor provides funding for the operation of the technology development networks in Northern Ontario. To get specific information about your area, click HERE.
Access to the services that allow us to connect can be tough to find when you live in Northern Ontario. ConnectedNorth.ca was created to help you find these services

September 7, 2020 – Reflections on Canadian Rural Connectivity: Building the Best Mechanism for Market Intervention (Dave Lampron, College of New Caledonia)

August 18, 2020 – FOCA supports the Xplornet fibre proposal for Central and Northeastern Ontario

August 17, 2020 – Leaders of EORN urge action on the Gigabyte Project (CBC Podcast)

August 14, 2020 – Lambton County invests $2.6M to fund additional program (SWIFT news release)

August 11, 2020 – Ontario’s Broadband Problem (TVO program – video link)

August 2020 – National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is examining the legal, ethical, social, and policy issues associated with deploying reliable high-speed internet in rural and remote communities.  The report will be available in 2021. (CCA)

August 11, 2020 – Eastern Ontario Regional Network Proposes Ultra-Fast Gig Internet Project (EORN news release)

August 11, 2020 – $1.6 billion proposal would deliver ultra-fast gigabit internet to rural eastern Ontario (KawarthaNOW)

July 2020 – FOCA writes in support of the EORN Gigabyte proposal to the Federal and Ontario governments

July 15, 2020 – Broadband expansion plan underway in Norfolk County (SWIFT press release)

May 2020 – Barriers to deploying broadband-capable networks in underserved areas in Canada (FCM, Submission to the CRTC)

May 31, 2020 – Exploring Opportunities for Local Governments to Invest in Critical Broadband Infrastructure (Rural Policy Learning Commons)

September 10, 2019 – Make broadband an essential service, rural community leader urges Ontario (The Canadian Press)


Waterfront property owners represent a major electricity customer group, with over 250,000 meters (mostly Hydro One customers) in various rate classes (R1, R2, Urban). FOCA’s members are concerned about rising electrical rates, disparity in rate classes, power outages, and business practices by electricity providers regarding forestry management and use of pesticides, as well as invasive species prevention.

>Seasonal Hydro Bills explained – an overview from Hydro One

>for more about Hydro costs, visit our webpage: https://foca.on.ca/electricity-pricing/

Hydro One Storm CentreHydro One Storm Centre – Keep track of planned and unplanned electrical outages for Hydro One customers, by smartphone or computer:


NOTE: To report an outage call 1-800-434-1235


Propane is clean burning and competes with fuels on efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions in many applications. It also offers some air quality advantages: when properly mixed with air to form a combustible mixture, propane emits virtually no soot, and low carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and oxides of nitrogen, which are the basic precursors of ground-level ozone, or smog.

In many cases, propane the only fuel used in remote locations because of its portability, especially for applications where demand patterns change, such as construction sites or cottages.  Many thousands of rural and waterfront residences use propane as a primary home heating fuel source.

The harsh winter of 2013 – 14 saw propane prices spike considerably.  To learn more about  propane pricing, read this summary from the Canadian Propane Association: Understanding Propane Prices (pdf; 1 page)

Michelle LewinUtilities & Rural Services – OVERVIEW