Warden’s Caucus hoping for green light from province on cell infrastructure project

Jim Pine, CAO of Hastings County

Jim Pine, CAO of Hastings County

Marmora and Lake - Hastings County CAO Jim Pine is hopeful that a multi-million dollar project to improve cellular service in Eastern Ontario will soon a reality.

Pine visited Marmora and Lake council, along with Warden Rick Phillips, at the March 5 meeting to discuss progress being made on the Eastern Ontario Cell Project.

The Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus is working in conjunction with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network to bring the $213 million project to fruition, Pine explained. The project requires $71 million commitments from both the federal and provincial governments as well as private investment.

“The overall goal is to make our region the best connected in terms on Internet and cellular service,” he told council. “There’s a big series of gaps and coverage and lots of capacity problems in the current networks.”
With 5G technology on the horizon, Eastern Ontario needs to have a strong existing network in place with additional capacity in order to support the 1.2 million people spanned across 50,000 kilometres in 113 municipalities who rely on the network.

“If we don’t have the basic infrastructure in place we’re going to be behind the eight ball and we just don’t want to be there,” Pine said, adding there’s still about 10 per cent, or 5,000 square kilometres, of area in the region where cell phones can’t even be used due to lack of signal.

The EOWC and EORN already invested $350,000 in a ‘Gap Analysis’ in 2014 and $520,000 again in 2018 to find out what areas lack solid infrastructure, and declared the Eastern Ontario Cellular Project its No. 1 priority in 2017, 2018 and again in January 2019.

Pine estimates when the project moves forward it has the potential to create 3,000 full-time jobs over the next decade.

The EOWC is hopeful the province will soon give the green light to get the project rolling, especially since several municipalities, Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Parliament have voiced their support.

“We’re hoping for an announcement from the provincial government soon to put contracts in place,” said Pine, adding that the project is essential to the future of Eastern Ontario.

Council thanked Pine for his presentation and Councillor Carman made a motion to support the EOWC And EORN in its endeavour. The motion was carried.