WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government has partnered with Xplornet Communications to expand high-speed, broadband Internet and cell phone services in the province.
Both parties have signed a memorandum of understanding to connect more than 125,000 unserved or underserved Manitobans in nearly 30 First Nations, and approximately 270 rural and northern communities. The agreement will also serve 350 communities with cell phone access.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of broadband connectivity and the need to ensure Manitobans have access to critical and timely information and services no matter where they live, work or travel in Manitoba,” said Premier Brian Pallister.
The agreement will see broadband services extended to nearly 30 First Nations, and approximately 270 rural and northern communities. An additional 350 communities will receive cell phone access.
The network will utilize thousands of kilometres of unused Manitoba Hydro fibre optic cable, which was installed to communicate with northern hydroelectric facilities and transmit data.
Central Services Minister Reg Helwer says the agreement comes at no cost to Manitoba, as Xplornet will be granted access to use existing infrastructure to connect the communities. A spokesperson for Helwer’s office says any cost incurred by Manitoba Hydro for Xplornet to operationalize the network will be reimbursed by Xplornet at no cost.
Existing smaller Internet service providers will continue to have access to the same fibre optic cables, but ISPs that want new access will have to form agreements with Xplornet, the spokesperson added.
The province is finalizing the details of the contract and expects to make the surplus capacity available to the New Brunswick-based telco as early as the fall.