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Manitoba to Expand Broadband to Rural, Northern Communities

May 15, 2020 11:34 AM | News

Internet Cables

Networking cables and circuit boards are shown in Toronto on Wednesday, November 8, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is looking to expand broadband communications to more rural and northern communities.

Utilizing so-called “dark” or unused Manitoba Hydro fibre-optic cables, the province will soon be issuing a request for proposals for companies capable of delivering high-speed broadband to under-serviced areas of Manitoba.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of broadband connectivity and the need to ensure people across the province have access to critical information, such as distance learning programs or internet-based mental health services,” said Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton.

“We want to help close the telecommunication gap in our province to better connect rural, remote and Indigenous communities, improve safety and access to information and learning resources.”

Manitoba Hydro owns thousands of kilometres of fibre-optic cable across the province, much of it having gone unused until now. The network was created to communicate with northern hydroelectric facilities and transmit data.

Wharton said the province will work with successful bidders to support further implementation of cellular service across long stretches of transportation corridors and in communities that are currently without cellular service.

Wharton said there is no cost associated with the project and the broadband network will continue to be publicly owned.

The province plans to post the RFP in late spring or early summer.