Families and businesses in rural and Indigenous northern communities can look forward to high-speed internet and better cellphone service under collaborations to improve and expand service.

FedNor funding will assist Blue Sky Net in delivering two projects designed to help businesses innovate and adopt new technologies, making them more productive and competitive in today’s global economy.

Residents and businesses in municipalities and Indigenous communities across Northeastern Ontario will benefit from access to new technologies and innovation opportunities thanks, in part, to a Government of Canada investment of more than $1.9 million.

Anthony Rota, Member of Parliament for Nipissing–Timiskaming, made the announcement recently on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and Minister responsible for FedNor.

“Our government recognizes that technology and innovation will shape the economy of the future and we are proud to assist businesses in their efforts to modernize their operations, grow and compete on the world stage. Today’s announcement will help local firms enhance their productivity and efficiency, leading to more good, middle-class jobs that support local families and strengthen our region’s economy,” said Rota.

First, an investment of $1 million will support the ongoing operations of Blue Sky Net for a three-year period, enabling the organization to deliver a variety of information and communications technology (ICT) activities throughout the Nipissing–Timiskaming, Sudbury East, Manitoulin and Parry Sound East regions. As part of the initiative, BSN will collaborate with local stakeholders to assess ICT trends and talent gaps, identify and implement solutions to increase skilled talent to support digital industries, coordinate local and regional broadband deployment, and help increase digital technology adoption and awareness.

The remaining $890,000 will enable BSN to administer its Business Technology Improvement Fund in its service area. The Fund provides high-growth-potential small and medium-sized enterprises with up to $25,000 in non-repayable contributions to support the purchase of digital technologies and other hardware and software solutions.

The province had previously released its $315 million plan to improve and expand service.

“Our government is committed to help businesses, families and farms stay connected, no matter where they live,” said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli. “Our investment will get shovels in the ground, get infrastructure built, and get people and business connected.”

The plan includes a $150 million commitment for a new broadband fund, which will leverage private sector funding along with support from other levels of government, to drive investment and expansion to unserved and underserved communities.

According to the provincial government, Ontario’s plan is expected to generate up to $1 billion in total investment over five years, resulting in new connections for up to 220,000 homes and businesses. This will lead to community, social and economic benefits well beyond the provincial investment.

“Too many people, especially those living in rural and Northern communities, do not have access to reliable internet access,” said Fedeli. “It means they can’t work from home, stay connected to family and friends, or access public services such as health care and education. In our increasingly digital world, being disconnected means being disadvantaged. This must change.”