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$97M to pay for internet access in northern Ont.

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On Monday, the federal and provincial governments announced joint funding of $97 million to increase internet access across parts of northern Ontario.

The areas getting improved service include areas along Highway 17, from Sudbury to Sault Ste Marie-Algoma and Manitoulin Island -- a total of 60 communities and 18,650 homes.

The announcement was made Monday at Sudbury's Dynamic Earth by Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré, Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe and Sault Ste Marie MP Terry Sheehan.

Gudie Hutchings, Federal Minister of Rural Economic Development, and Amarjot Sandhu, Parliamentary Assistant to Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure, were also in attendance to make the announcement.

"Obviously, northern Ontario has some special needs. We have different priorities, different ways to build networks," said Serré.

"This is an example of us coming together with the private sector to ensure that we get the broadband to the people of northern Ontario.

On Monday, the federal and provincial governments announced joint funding of $97 million to increase internet access across parts of northern Ontario. (Amanda Hicks/CTV News)

'Game changer'

Sheehan described the announcement as a 'game changer.'

"Whether it's education, you know, for jobs, the economy, for health care and just, you know, social inclusion," he said.

"It'll be beneficial for seniors, too."

The funding will go to ROCK Networks, part of the PomeGran group, to design, build and operate the network. It is part of a joint program from the federal and provincial governments to ensure all homes across Canada have access to the internet.

"It takes a lot of money because you're basically laying the fiber line in under the ground, so it's money, it's contractors," said Hutchings.

"It's getting that work done to get the fibre in the ground and then getting the connections to the home."

Serré said access to the internet is a concern he often hears from residents in his riding.

"I hear it around Nickel Belt, in Sudbury and actually all across northern Ontario," he said. "

I hear from mayors, I hear from organizations and municipalities, businesses especially, that we need to do more."

Serré said he also hears about access to better cellular service.

"We know we need to do more, but this is a start," he said.

The federal government said plans are underway to have the work completed by the end of 2025. 

Correction

This story has been corrected to say the funding has been awarded to ROCK Networks, part of the PomeGran group. 

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