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Wellington County leverages Internet Performance Test data to improve services to residents

By Jeff Buell
Internet Performance Test Program Manager
  • Product used: CIRA Internet Performance Test
  • Partnership date: 2018
  • Number of tests run (to date): 11,541
  • Favourite thing about IPT: Testing is plug-and-play; no need to build anything


Spread out around (but not including) Guelph, Ontario, the county of Wellington has a proud agricultural history, which continues to this day. Wellington also has a diverse economy providing employment in the health care, manufacturing and tourism sectors. But, like other regions across Canada populated with small hamlets and farmland, many residents of the county struggled with poor internet connectivity.

“We know that for our residents to thrive, we all need access to modern communication technology.  Households need to work from home, complete school tasks, book medical appointments, apply for opportunities such as jobs and training, make purchases and stay in touch with distant family; today, these things all take place over the internet,” said Justine Dainard, Smart Cities Project Manager for the county. “ The County is not a utility service provider, but it does try to use its position to leverage opportunities and advocate for improvements.”

About the project

The importance of partnerships

The Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus, an organization made up of elected officials from 15 upper and single tier municipalities, also recognized the critical importance of broadband to the lives and livelihood of people in southwestern Ontario. The Warden’s Caucus initiated the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology alliance (or SWIFT) to strategically leverage public funding to encourage broadband expansion to their underserved communities.

To date, the SWIFT initiative has brought improved service to over 63,000 homes and businesses with a $270 million investment across 13 counties in southwestern Ontario. In Wellington County, there has been $7,276,123 invested in broadband expansion by SWIFT, the private sector and the County itself.

“When we knew we were going to be part of SWIFT we prepared by initiating the CIRA Internet Performance Test in combination with a resident survey,” Dainard said. This data collection allowed the County to identify a starting point and a baseline measurement. This data also helped prioritize areas of the highest need and density.

Dainard explained that most of the internet coverage mapping available to communities is based on data reported by internet service providers which can sometimes be out of date, and otherwise difficult to determine the real state of the broadband infrastructure. “IPT data is the easiest way for a municipality to undercover the patterns of improved connectivity or ongoing need.”

“SWIFT offered a way to have our municipal funding contribution amplified and administered by a knowledgeable, purpose-focused staff.  Our member municipalities were host to four projects which offered new connections to over 3,000 addresses.  If we were to have incentivized service expansion on our own, we may not have had the time or expertise to have municipal staff handle this volume of new project scale,” Dainard continued. To date, the projects have built Fibre to the Home (FTTH) services as well as one reliable fixed wireless tower.


Addressing digital equity gaps

The four broadband infrastructure projects are now mostly completed in the county and have delivered the expected results. As the projects were wrapping up, staff could see from the IPT data that further investment would be needed, and in 2021, County Council renewed its funding commitment to collective broadband solutions. Now that federal and provincial funding is being released for completing rural broadband connectivity in Ontario, Wellington County continues to use the IPT data to scan for areas which are underserved but not currently on the upcoming installation maps—seeking to identify gaps which should be advocated for.


Dainard says the County is currently watching the rollout of the provincial Accelerated High Speed Internet Program (AHSIP) and trying to gather detailed mapping data to understand if anyone will be missed. “One of our main concerns now is balancing fiberoptic service with cell tower service so that the needs of both vulnerable residents and emergency services are met with comprehensive coverage. CIRA has been a great partner in learning to understand our connectivity landscape. We’re grateful to have a centralized and independent way to capture this information about an essential service.”

About Net Good by CIRA and the Internet Performance Test

Net Good by CIRA supports projects, communities and policies that make the internet better for all Canadians which includes the Internet Performance Test (IPT). The platform offers advanced and detailed diagnostic data enabling communities, researchers and decision-makers to better understand and improve internet access in Canada. Each year, CIRA proudly funds its Net Good program from the revenue generated through .CA domains and cybersecurity services.

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About the author
Jeff Buell

Jeff is the Internet Performance Test (IPT) Program Manager. The IPT is the most advanced internet quality test in Canada that provides public access to the performance results. Jeff is an avid advocate for how IPT data, maps and reports can help stakeholders identify areas with limited access, improve funding decisions, evaluate the success of funded projects and do so at a high degree of geographic granularity.