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Government Partners For New Fibre Optics network in Northern Ontario Communities

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Government Partners For New Fibre Optics network in Northern Ontario Communities

THUNDER BAY --The Honourable Michael Gravelle, Ontario's Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, along with the Honourable John Duncan, on behalf of the Government of Canada, Peter Dilworth, vice president of finance and chief procurement officer at Bell Aliant, and Grand Chief Stan Beardy, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, today announced joint support for the Northwestern Ontario Broadband Expansion Initiative. This estimated $81-million initiative will bring a state-of-the-art backbone fibre optic network to 26 Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) communities in Ontario's Far North.

This new infrastructure will help create network service jobs, improve access to high-speed Internet for all users, open new economic opportunities and enhance quality of life for the region's First Nations.

The Northwestern Ontario Broadband Expansion Initiative consists of five projects to be completed over four years and will span more than 2,300 kilometres when complete. Internet and other broadband services that are currently delivered to these 26 remote communities rely on dated satellite and microwave technology.

As communications provider, Bell Aliant will work in partnership with NAN to build the network which will enable speeds up to 50 times faster than current systems. The company's share of the project will be $26 million over four years to build and operate a new fibre optic cable that has the capacity to deliver a minimum of 1.5 megabits per second to each and every household in the communities.

"Expanding broadband capacity is part of the McGuinty government's Open Ontario plan to improve infrastructure, create jobs and encourage economic growth for further development," said Minister Gravelle.  "This fibre optic network will help provide NAN communities with improved access to distance education, health care, government and other business services."

"This investment in connectivity infrastructure will mean that the Nishnawbe Aski Nation will now have access to the Internet, enhancing opportunities for education, business, and monitoring of community infrastructure," said John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. "Through programs such as the First Nations Infrastructure Fund, the government is engaging First Nations in meaningful partnerships, fostering sustainable First Nation communities and supporting stronger, safer and healthier communities."

"This is a collaborative approach to building a backbone network that will provide these NAN communities with enhanced and more reliable broadband services," said Peter Dilworth, vice president of finance and chief procurement officer at Bell Aliant. "A fibre optic solution is a better, longer-term solution for the region that will replace the older satellite and microwave systems -- especially given the harsh weather conditions in the area. With this initiative we are investing in technology for both today and tomorrow."

"This installation will offer NAN communities access to a wide-variety of essential services such as tele-health and tele-education, and provide them with access to all of the economic opportunities of the World Wide Web," said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy.  "The project will also provide immediate and future opportunities for our First Nations.  It will allow for our communities to have full participation in telecommunications in the twenty-first century."

The new network will cover a geographic area of roughly 490,000 square kilometres, equivalent to the surface area of Canada's five smallest provinces and builds on a previous initiative that brought fibre optic technology to Red Lake in 2008.

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