July 20, 2004


Government moving forward with broadband commitments

Education Minister John Ottenheimer today announced that the Department of Education is moving forward with its commitment to provide additional broadband Internet access services to schools and communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

In June of 2003, the provincial and federal governments committed to a $15 million initiative to expand high speed broadband Internet access services to rural and remote areas of the province which included a $5 million commitment each, from both the provincial and federal governments.

As a concrete step towards this objective, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, in conjunction with the Government of Canada, has issued a request for proposals (RFP) from industry partners to match the $5 million investment of each level of government and build the necessary broadband Internet infrastructure and service mechanism that will provide connectivity to unserviced communities and schools.

"The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in particular the Department of Education, has a long term objective of ensuring that all schools in the province, and the communities where they are located, have access to high speed Internet services," said Minister Ottenheimer.

"Affordable broadband access technologies are readily available in the more densely populated areas of the province. However, for many rural communities, it is not commercially viable for the private sector alone to build the infrastructure necessary to offer these services. The combined federal, provincial, and private industry partnership funding will allow substantial gains to be made in the delivery of broadband services to the schools, homes and businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador's rural communities," he said.

Broadband services will improve the delivery of e-learning programs and services, and will further enable citizens to access e-government services to these communities. This initiative is targeted at rural and remote communities with at least one school. The new broadband services will be implemented so that maximum coverage and positive impact for the investment is achieved.

Proceeding with this project will be beneficial in strengthening opportunities to generate employment and economic growth in rural and remote areas, with high speed internet services also available to local businesses such as tourism operators, and creative and cultural industries.

"We are delighted to be moving forward with this important initiative," said the minister. "Our approach to education is based on access and opportunity. Under the guidance of a skilled teacher, the Internet is an exciting learning tool in today's school. It provides access to a vast array of learning opportunities to enrich the classroom experiences of all learners. By partnering with the federal government and industry, we are able to expand broadband services to communities that would otherwise not have high speed access."

The RFP closing date has been extended to August 30, 2004. Work is expected to commence this fall with functioning high speed broadband Internet access services anticipated by fall of 2005.

Media contact: Lynn Salter, Communications, (709) 729-0048

2004 07 20                                        9:25 a.m.

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