Long-awaited rural internet project is a step closer
WINDSOR, ONT -- The Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) rural internet project was a topic of discussion before Essex County council Wednesday.
It was a timely one, as the province announced on Wednesday the next measures to improve internet access in rural areas.
“It was a good day for SWIFT today,” said executive director Barry Field.
A Request for Proposals (RFP) has been issued by the SWIFT initiative.
"On March 9, we actually issued the RFP for Essex for a value of, a minimum value for 12.8 million dollars."
The RFP for Essex County closes on July 31 and the contract will be awarded after.
The program began in 2014 to bring high-speed internet to rural homes in Windsor-Essex.
Many council members feel it's taken too long, including Essex deputy mayor Richard Meloche.
However, during Wednesday’s council meeting, Meloche expressed he's “quite excited” about the announcement.
“The startup of the SWIFT program took a little longer than anybody had anticipated. There were some bumps along the way. That goes without saying but the province and the feds concerns that they had have been alleviated and we are well on our way to a successful implementation of phase two and phase three,” said Field.
Funding for the $219-million project comes from the provincial and federal government, as well as from municipal partners and private sector investors.
Field says the $12.8 million will only cover about 22 per cent of under serviced homes in the region.
"We hope to attract bids from various ISPs to provide infrastructure within Essex County. What we've seen in other municipalities is that through the competitive nature of the RFP we actually attract more investment than the minimum from the ISPs. So that's a good thing."
If the project for Southwestern Ontario moves forward, SWIFT believes the technology will be in place by mid-2023 with construction starting next year.
Council unanimously voted to move forward with SWIFT.