Connect to Innovate

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From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

The Connect to Innovate program will invest $500 million by 2021, to bring high-speed Internet to 300 rural and remote communities in Canada. In these communities, challenging geography and smaller populations present barriers to private sector investment in building, operating and maintaining infrastructure.

This program supports new "backbone" infrastructure to connect institutions like schools and hospitals with a portion of funding for upgrades and "last-mile" infrastructure to households and businesses. Canadians will have the opportunity to innovate and participate in our economy, democracy and way of life using new digital tools and cutting-edge services like tele-health and tele-learning.

Why is it important?

In Budget 2016, the Government of Canada put forward a vision to build Canada as a global centre of innovation—one that focuses on strengthening the middle class by creating jobs, driving growth across all industries and improving the lives of all Canadians.

The Connect to Innovate program helps realize the Innovation Agenda's vision by investing $500 million by 2021, to ensure that rural and remote communities across Canada are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the digital age.

Internet access serves as more than just a convenience: it is an essential means by which citizens, businesses, and institutions access information, offer services, and create opportunities that could otherwise be out of reach.

The funding for Connect to Innovate is directed to new backbone infrastructure in rural and remote communities across Canada. Building this infrastructure is the modern equivalent of building roads or railway spurs into rural and remote areas, connecting them to the global economy. This backbone infrastructure is often fibre optic-based, but can be comprised of a range of technologies including microwave and satellite service.

Although the focus of the program is on new backbone infrastructure, during extensive consultations stakeholders identified additional needs that warrant eligibility. As such, eligibility included backbone capacity upgrades and resiliency, as well as last-mile infrastructure projects to households and businesses.

Capacity upgrades were needed in some communities that already have access to fibre optics but the network is particularly old when less scalable designs were common, and becoming congested. Resiliency projects were also eligible to include the construction of fibre loop extensions to help mitigate the impact of accidental fibre cuts in rural and remote areas.

A portion of Connect to Innovate program funds also support "last-mile" connectivity projects to households, at speeds of at least 5 Megabits per second (Mbps), where gaps continue to persist. Last-mile infrastructure brings Internet access from the backbone to end users like households or small businesses through familiar wired or wireless technologies, such as cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), fixed wireless or satellite. Without adequate last-mile infrastructure, Canadian consumers and businesses are not able to take advantage of the backbone infrastructure that may already exist in a community.

The program supports new and upgraded backbone and last-mile infrastructure projects in rural and remote communities across Canada to ensure that our country is drawing on the strengths of all Canadians to drive innovation, growth, and the creation of new jobs.

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