NORTH BAY -- As part of the province's newest investment to bring faster and more reliable internet to the north, Ontario announced another $10.9 million in funding on Wednesday morning. The latest round of money is earmarked for several towns and First Nation communities, including around $425,000 for the Township of Chisholm, south of North Bay.

Ontario is pitching in $267,000, while Spectrum Group, a telecommunications service provider based out of North Bay, is providing $127,000 and the Township of Chisholm is contributing $30,000 to support the project.

The province said the new infrastructure is easily upgraded to meet demand from additional subscribers in Chisholm and surrounding areas.

"Reliable broadband service is certainly needed for life in the 21st century and today's announcement is a step towards making broadband improvements for our rural businesses, families and individuals," said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, who is also the minister of economic development, job creation and trade. "Now, more than ever, the residents of Chisholm are relying on internet to access services, working from home and connecting with their loved ones."

The project is being led by the Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation, which helps communities and service providers to improve broadband access. This investment is part of the province's promise to connect Ontarians to broadband.

On Nov. 4, 2020, the Ontario government announced its investment of $680 million on top of its existing commitment to improving connectivity in the province, leading to a historic investment of nearly $1 billion over six years.

"It's quite huge for Chisholm," said Chisholm Mayor Gail Degagne. "It's a great start for us. It's in the response to public feedback that we've been getting. Especially now with COVID and people working from home and students trying to learn from home."

In addition to Chisholm, Wednesday's funding is also aimed at building infrastructure that brings high-speed broadband to Marathon, Terrace Bay, rural Thunder Bay, and Oliver Paipoonge. Another big project that is included, is the construction of a new 22-kilometre fibre backbone network that brings high-speed broadband to several First Nation Communities. Seine River First Nation, Couchiching First Nation, Rainy River First Nations, Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation, Animakee Wa Zhing #37 First Nation and Big Grassy First Nation will all benefit from this new network. Finally, the money will also go to upgrade the speed and capacity of the K-Net network, owned by Keewaytinook Okimakanak, which serves more than 80 First Nation communities, while supporting future upgrades.

Despite the latest province-wide stay-at-home orders, most students in northern Ontario returned to in-person learning on Jan. 11 while their southern counterparts remain at home learning remotely. Ontario Premier Doug Ford cited the lack of access to reliable internet as the reason why northern students would return to in-class instruction so early.

"COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the challenges facing our northern and remote communities, including access to reliable, high-speed internet," said Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs. "Efficient and modern broadband infrastructure is critical to advancing economic recovery and development in Northern Ontario."