The federal government is investing another $750 million on top of the previously announced $1 billion in its Universal Broadband Fund in an effort to improve Canadians’ access to high-speed internet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a cadre of cabinet ministers made the announcement in Ottawa on Monday.

The $1 billion effort to bring fast internet, defined as 50 Mbps download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds, to more Canadians was originally announced in the 2019 budget. The $750 million announced this week includes $150 million for shovel-ready projects to get started immediately. The rest of the money is to be allocated over the next six years.

“Now more than ever, Canadians need reliable access to high-speed Internet as we work, learn, and communicate with our family and friends from home. With today’s announcement, we are continuing to bring faster Internet access to every part of our country, helping businesses grow, creating new jobs, and building a better Canada for everyone,” noted Trudeau.

The prime minister also announced the federal government has signed a $600 million with Ottawa-based Telesat to provide high speed internet via low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to rural, remote, and northern areas.

“Telesat LEO will transform connectivity in Canada, and this agreement will bring affordable enterprise grade, high-speed connectivity to underserved Canadians no matter where they live and work,” said Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s President and CEO. “We applaud the Government of Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada for leveraging revolutionary technologies like Telesat LEO to drive widespread social and economic benefits. We look forward to working with Canadian service providers to provide this capacity to qualified communities across the country to get all Canadians connected as soon as possible.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Telesat will allocate a certain amount of LEO rural connectivity capacity  to internet service providers at reduced rates on a first come, first served basis to provide connectivity for eligible communities. Service providers will be able to offer customers speeds of at least 50/10 Mbps.

It’s estimated 41 per cent of rural Canadian households and only approximately one quarter of Indigenous communities currently have access to fast internet. The government says the Universal Broadband Fund investment “will connect 98 per cent of Canadians across the country to high-speed Internet by 2026, with the goal of connecting all Canadians by 2030.”

The Conservatives called the announced “a slap in the face.”

“While the Trudeau Liberals have repeatedly promised to improve internet connectivity, they have failed miserably to deliver,” noted John Nater, Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Economic Development, in a statement on Monday. “This is absolutely unacceptable and a slap in the face to the nearly one million Canadians who don’t have internet access at home, much less a reliable cell phone signal.  They don’t need more Liberal hashtags and photo-ops, they deserve a real plan.”

The Liberals also announced $2 billion for broadband in underserved communities through the Canada Infrastructure Bank in early October. The Trudeau government says it has committed $6.2 billion to improving broadband connectivity since being elected in 2015.

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