Canadian government includes co-ops in fund to drive broadband inclusion

The $8.2m funding package, focusing on Quebec, includes two community telecoms co-ops serving rural municipalities

The Canadian government is working with the government of Quebec on an CA$8.2m project to bring broadband to 25 rural communities across the province.

Funding includes $181,244 for the Coopérative de câblodistribution de l’arrière-pays (CCAP) for a project benefiting the community of Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury.

The co-op’s general manager Stéphane Arseneau said: “As a co-operative, we’re pleased to be able to participate in this collective effort to connect all Canadian households to high-speed internet.

“We appreciate the involvement of both governments in this project, giving us the means and support needed to finally serve the residents in our area. They too deserve to take full advantage of this advanced and efficient means of communication. We had wanted to offer them this service for a long time, but its deployment was inconceivable without this financial support.”

The funding also sees $98,758 go to the Coopérative de télécommunication SJM for a project benefiting the community of Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur-de-Wolfestown.

In a joint statement, the co-op’s president Marc-André Grenier, and local mayor Steven Laprise said: “Saint-Jacques-Le-Majeur is the smallest municipality in Les Appalaches RCM, with barely 200 inhabitants. This small group of residents decided to form a co-operative. After six years of effort and with financial support from the federal and provincial governments, the municipality was the first to offer fibre-to-the-home Internet service in the summer of 2021.

“Just because we’re small doesn’t mean we can’t have big plans. Our motto is keep moving forward!”

The government of Canada says the scheme continues its “progress toward making sure that 98% of Canadians have access to high-speed Internet by 2026”.

Since 2015, the government of Canada says it has invested more than $731m to improve connectivity in Quebec.

The new round of support also includes private telecoms providers – with $1,208,522 going to Bell Canada for projects benefiting the communities of Fatima, Innue Essipit, Lac-Légaré, Les Escoumins, Pointe-à-Boisvert, Rivière-Sainte-Marguerite and Sacré-Cœur; and $6,788,876 to Sogetel for projects benefiting the communities of Aston-Jonction, Baie-du-Febvre, Breault, La Visitation, Nicolet, Notre-Dame-de-Pierreville, Pierreville, Saint-Célestin-Station, Sainte-Eulalie, Saint-Elphège, Sainte-Monique, Sainte-Perpétue, Saint-François-du-Lac, Saint-Léonard-d’Aston, Saint-Wenceslas and Saint-Zéphirin.

“This investment will bring reliable high-speed Internet access to 25 communities in rural Quebec, improving access to health care and online learning services and keeping people connected,” said Gudie Hutchings, minister of rural economic development.

“Since 2015, the government of Canada has committed $7.2bn to connect rural Canadians, including many in Indigenous communities, to better, faster Internet. We will continue making investments like these in rural and remote communities to help connect every single Canadian to high-speed Internet.”

Stéphane Lauzon, parliamentary secretary to the minister of rural economic development, said: “This is excellent and important news for rural Quebec. We understand how essential high-speed Internet access has become for all Canadians. The government of Canada has made it a priority to connect rural and remote regions throughout Canada, including in Quebec.”