Agreement Brings Broadband Access to Remote Schools

Access to broadband for thousands of Newfoundland and Labrador residents is closer to reality today, thanks to a commitment between the Government of Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and private-sector partner, Persona Communications Corp. In a signed agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, each will contribute up to $5 million towards this initiative, along with Persona Communications Corp. who will contribute $19.9 million through their agreement with the province. This funding will provide broadband access to 68 schools and 103 communities, located in the rural and remote regions of Newfoundland and Labrador.

David L. Emerson, Minister of Industry, on behalf of John Godfrey, Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities), Tom Hedderson, Minister of Education, R. John Efford, Minister of Natural Resources, and Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, together with Dean MacDonald, President and CEO of Persona Communications Corp., today announced that broadband access will be increased to rural and remote schools and communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, with funding totalling $29.9 million.

“Today’s announcement is about our future and our economic health: if greater productivity is our number one economic priority, Canada must be a full player in the global networked economy by being fully enabled and connected. We must ensure that today’s young people have access to the same information and communications technologies and the same educational opportunities, no matter where they live in this country,” said Minister Emerson.

“This is a strategic investment in rural Newfoundland and Labrador to provide broadband Internet in previously unserviced areas,” said Minister Hedderson. “Rural students will benefit because video conferencing technology can help provide more flexible distance education opportunities.”

“By continuing to facilitate partnerships such as these, which bring broadband access to schools and communities, we have the potential to enhance the quality of life for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, especially those in rural or remote regions of the province,” said Minister Efford.

“Innovation is the key to energizing and strengthening rural economies across Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, and Minister responsible for the Rural Secretariat. “This initiative demonstrates that technological innovation can positively impact rural communities and businesses, and level the educational playing field for rural residents.”

As the private-sector partner in this initiative, Persona Communications Corp. will help to make broadband access a reality for the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador. Persona provides cable television, digital cable and high-speed Internet and telecom services, to a diverse base of residential and commercial customers across Canada.

“Persona believes in bringing world class service to rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. These selected areas currently have either capacity issues with Internet or no Internet availability at all; this initiative will eliminate these communication barriers. Technology destroys all borders and distances and Persona believes it’s a necessity to invest in rural Newfoundland and Labrador so we can continue to provide our youth with the ability to build strong and vibrant communities within this great province of ours,” said Mr. MacDonald.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s distance-learning program, provided through its Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI), will coordinate and administer the project. The CDLI uses a Web-based approach to deliver a form of distance education called e-learning, which connects teachers and students scattered over a wide geographical area through telecommunications systems and computer networks.

The Government of Canada’s contribution comes from the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF). Under this program, the Government of Canada works with provincial, territorial and municipal governments, as well as the private sector, to meet strategic infrastructure needs throughout the country.

This announcement builds on investments under the Government of Canada’s New Deal for Cities and Communities, which includes: the GST rebate of $7 billion over 10 years; $5 billion over five years in gas tax funding across Canada; and up to $800 million over two years for public transit. A further $4 billion is being provided nationally through the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund, $1 billion through the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, $600 million through the Border Infrastructure Fund and $2.05 billion through the Infrastructure Canada Program. The New Deal promotes the economic, social, environmental and cultural sustainability of Canada’s communities.