Corp Comm Connects

'It's unbelievable': High-speed internet making inroads in East Gwillimbury
July 15, 2021

It wasn’t too long ago that good internet was an overwhelming problem in East Gwillimbury. But that’s changing fast. Sharon resident and chair of the town’s broadband working group Terry Russell switched internet providers last month.

The longtime Rogers customer moved to Bell after they laid fibre in his old Sharon subdivision. “It’s unbelievable,” he said of the new found speed. “It is very high-speed service. I had been with Rogers for years and I’m afraid they haven’t kept up.” Although Russell was paying for top level service, he said their previous internet was often not good enough for him and his wife, who both work from home. “We would be on Zoom calls and there would be flashing circles on the screen,” he said.

Russell’s story could be similar for the residents in the majority of East Gwillimbury.

According to a staff report, Bell plans to invest $17 million laying high-speed fibre in the town with the goal of 95-per-cent service coverage by the end of 2022 -- 80 per cent being fibre to the home technology and 15 per cent being wireless to the home technology.

While that is huge step forward, the town is working to develop a plan to provide service to around 300 homes in six pockets around the town that remain underserved.

Who could forget Brian Smith, the East Gwillimbury resident who caused much discussion last year after he built a 96-foot tower on his property on Fairbairn Gate to get better internet access? While a few people in the neighbourhood weren’t happy with the new tower, the vast majority supported the endeavour. Russell said it is often the those rural pockets that have a difficult time getting good service.

East Gwillimbury Director of Economic Development Margot Begin said the town will investigate ways to fund the $350,000 to service the six underserved pockets.

Ward 3 Coun. Scott Crone said the broadband committee and the town need to be commended on improving their internal processes. He said Bell used to regard the town as one of the worst places to do business, but now the opposite is true. “If there is one good thing that has come out of this pandemic is it has shown a light very brightly on the need for improved internet connectivity,” he said.

Ward 2 Coun. Tara Roy-DiClemente said for years high-speed internet seemed like a very complex issue that was hard to solve. “This is really scoped down for us and doesn’t seem quite so insurmountable,” she said. “We have gone so far so fast.” She said things like a local improvement charge could be considered for the underserved areas.

“What a huge difference you have made for our residents,” Ward 1 Coun. Loralea Carruthers said.

Federal and provincial governments also continue to pledge money toward better internet service. Recently, a Bell application under the Universal Broadband Fund was successful and will bring fibre to the home of an additional 44 homes in the Callwood Court area.

Russell said the broadband working group and the town are still waiting on word for funding that would see 500 kilometres of fibre installed on regional roads for YorkNet. If successful, that would make a huge difference as many of the more poorly serviced area would have fibre right at the door.

Russell used Fairburn Gate off Warden Avenue as an example. It would be much easier to convince a service provider to run fibre to the neighbourhood, he said.

While the federal and provincial governments have pledged a lot of money to the issue, Russell said it needs to get out the door. “The feds and the province need to move faster,” he said.