WINDSOR, ONT. -- The construction of broadband infrastructure has started to help bring faster and more reliable internet to more than 540 homes and businesses in Essex County.

The federal and provincial governments have each committed up to $330,000 to help create more economic and educational opportunities in rural and underserved areas of Essex County through an improved modern broadband network.

Construction of the new infrastructure network in the Lighthouse Cove community is now underway with service expected to start in October. The project is valued at $2.1 million.

“We are pleased to announce that construction is now underway to improve broadband access in Essex County as the first project breaks ground in the community of Lighthouse Cove to bring high-speed service to 540 more locations,” Gary McNamara, SWIFT Board Chair and Essex County Warden, said in a news release. “In a time when access to high-speed internet is critical, we are pleased to be working with the governments of Ontario and Canada to further expand broadband service across Southwestern Ontario."

The contracts to expand fibre-optic broadband services in Essex County were awarded to Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) Inc. Swift is a not for profit organization started by local municipalities to address connectivity in Southwestern Ontario.

According to the province, more than 3,190 homes and businesses in Southwestern Ontario received access to improved broadband through SWIFT.

“Access to reliable high-speed Internet is critical for families and businesses, and the challenge of not having good quality internet service has been amplified during the pandemic,” Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk said. “Through strategic investments and collaboration with community partners, our government is committed to connecting families in Southwestern Ontario so they can stay in touch with loved ones, work or study from home, and access essential services.”

As part of a combined federal and provincial investment of more than $191 million efforts continue to help “bridge the gaps” in access to broadband in Southwestern Ontario. The province says this will allow for communities to help attract development and help to strengthen local economies.