NORTH BAY -- The federal government is investing more than $2 million to expand high-speed internet to remote, rural communities in northern Ontario.

The municipalities of East Ferris and Redbridge near North Bay, Killarney south of Sudbury and Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation are expected to get stronger connections in the coming months.

“When we look at connecting Canadians, we made our commitment as a federal government to provide the leadership to connect all Canadians by 2030,” said Nickel Belt Liberal MP Marc Serré. “That will include the hard-to-service areas.”

East Ferris Mayor Pauline Rochefort is thrilled to see stronger internet coming to her community.

“Here in the greater Nipissing, we work together as municipalities in advocating for improved internet for our area,” Rochefort said. “There’s actually going to be a lot of the wireless backbone technology. So it’s expected that it might assist other homes in that larger broad area.”

As part of the federal government’s commitment to connect 98 per cent of Canadians by 2026, Vianet, Blue Sky Net and Bell Canada are getting more than $2 million to proceed with shovel-ready projects and connect about 1,200 northern Ontario homes.

“Rural broadband is not just nice to have, it’s a necessity now and because of COVID, the need is that much greater," said Brian McCullagh, Vianet’s director of business. "We’ve changed the way we live and the way we work.”

The funding will connect:

• 176 households in the Killarney region (Vianet, $576,000)

• 239 households in East Ferris (Blue Sky Net, $881,000)

• 360 households in Redbridge (Blue Sky Net, $386,000)

• 482 households in Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation (Bell, $195,000)

The projects were approved within five months of the November 2020 formal launch of the $1.75 billion Universal Broadband Fund.

“The Band-Aid solution from previous governments, like giving a little bit money here and there in small pockets, didn’t work because the technology was obsolete in a year or two,” said Serré.

Serré said he recognizes that other northern municipalities are still looking for stronger connections and added keeping in contact with mayors and council is the best way of finding other underserved areas.