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mapping available to communities is based on data reported by internet service providers which can sometimes be out of date, and otherwise difficult to determine the real state of the broadband infrastructure.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.