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This article was published 13/12/2018 (365 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Municipalities around Winnipeg that have been plagued by slow unreliable internet for years are one step closer to receiving high-speed fibre optic access to the web.
Mayors and reeves from 11 municipalities signed an agreement with two internet providers Thursday.
"This is really really important for the municipalities. Minutes outside the city of Winnipeg, you have people who do not have access to this type of high-speed service," said Colleen Sklar, executive director of the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region (WMR).
"Now it's time for (elected officials) to make sure we're connected to the new technologies and infrastructures we need to be competitive going into the future."
The agreement is the first step of the Connecting to Opportunity project started by WMR and JohnQ Public Inc., an economic development corporation that represents 13 municipalities around the city.
Internet providers WireIE and RFNOW Inc. signed on to the project, which will bring the upgraded internet to 43 under-serviced communities. They include East and West St. Paul, Headingley, Macdonald, Ritchot, Rockwood, Rosser, St. Andrews, St. Clement, St. Françis Xavier, Taché, Springfield and Stonewall.
"This will affect our entire community. We have a very small part of our community that gets high speed access just on the edge of the city but in reality the vast majority of our community is not hooked up to high speed internet," said Frances Smee, reeve of Rosser and co-chair of WMR.
Smee added there are certain spots in her community that she calls black holes, where there is little to no internet access. "This is certainly not just an amusement for people, this is a real solid infrastructure that's going to help with business, with the quality of life, with emergency services and education."
Earlier this year, JohnQ prepared a fibre optic feasibility study that concluded the upgrade may increase internet speed seven to 10 times faster than that of Winnipeg.
The study purposes a ring of fibre optics be laid around Winnipeg, giving rural municipalities the opportunity to patch into the line. Each municipality would be financially responsible for connecting to the fibre optic line, which would be owned collectively by the 13 municipalities.
Sklar said it is too early to estimate how much the installation will cost. The municipalities are seeking federal and provincial funding for the project before proceeding. Sklar estimated construction could begin as early as May.