WINDSOR, ONT. -- The federal and provincial governments are creating even more economic and educational opportunities with an improved, modern broadband network in Southwestern Ontario, including Essex County.

The Ontario government announced Friday that all contracts are signed in Essex County through the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) project, ensuring that construction of more than $19 million in broadband infrastructure will now move forward.

When complete, these projects will connect approximately 5,173 more homes and businesses in the area to fast, reliable internet.

The contracts to expand high-speed fibre-optic broadband services in Essex County were awarded by Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) Inc, a not-for-profit corporation initiated by local municipalities to address connectivity in Southwestern Ontario.

"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," said Irek Kusmierczyk, MP for Windsor-Tecumseh. "Through our investments and collaboration with community partners, our government is connecting families in Southwestern Ontario so they can stay in touch with their loved ones, work or study from home and access essential services."

Government officials say they recognize how important rural broadband access is for individuals, families and businesses.

"Thanks to the funding provided by the Government of Ontario, thousands of residences within my riding will be getting access to much needed high-speed internet," said Rick Nicholls, MPP for Chatham-Kent—Leamington. "This infrastructure is critical to keep our rural communities connected socially and professionally."

Work continues to bridge the gaps in broadband access in Southwestern Ontario, as part of a combined $191 million investment to bring fast, reliable internet to thousands of homes and businesses.

"Today's newly announced fibre projects will bring increased employment opportunities and significant economic benefits to Essex County and further support the long-term sustainability of our rural communities," said David Mayberry, SWIFT Board Chair. "We would like to thank the Governments of Ontario and Canada for their ongoing support, as we continue to work together to accelerate the expansion of broadband infrastructure across Southwestern Ontario."