November 10, 2005
(Innovation, Trade and Rural Development)

Government to study province�s long-term advanced network needs

Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, announced today that the provincial government is reviewing all government telecommunications requirements with the intention of creating a province-wide advanced computer network. The Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, in consultation with the Office of the Chief Information Officer, will lead the investigation phase of the project.

"Government is the biggest user of broadband services in the province and we want to use our purchasing leverage to try to bring advanced network service to every region of Newfoundland and Labrador," says Minister Dunderdale. "It is clearly stated in our Blueprint that enhancing broadband availability is one of our top economic development priorities. It is vital for the province to consider our long-term technology needs if we are to successfully compete with other jurisdictions in the future."

"In terms of its current network capabilities and capacity, Newfoundland and Labrador is falling behind the rest of the country and the world," said Minister Dunderdale. "If the province does not keep pace, we risk losing markets and failing to attract new investment, particularly in the highly competitive value-added goods, service and technology industries that are driving economic growth around the globe."

A survey of government�s current communications infrastructure is being conducted by all government departments and agencies. The survey is an important component of the review as it will establish a baseline for future growth. Survey results are expected in late fall.

"One of the key challenges facing government is bringing competitive and affordable access to as many communities in our province as possible," the minister stated. "One of the most important aspects of this project is that it has the potential to directly meet that challenge, greatly benefiting Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in all regions of the province."

Next week, government will issue a national request for proposals (RFP) for a consultant who will recommend an advanced network model that meets government�s existing and anticipated future technology needs. The potential benefits of enhancing the province�s broadband infrastructure are numerous and wide-ranging. An advanced network would expand the research capabilities of the province�s educational institutions and lead to greater availability of telehealth services in minimally-serviced areas of the province. This infrastructure will result in increased service availability for the public, community groups and businesses.

In recent years, the provincial and federal governments have cooperated to bring broadband to communities and schools throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, through the Broadband for Rural and Northern Development Pilot Program (BRAND) and the recently announced Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation (CDLI) project. BRAND was aimed at helping communities gain access to broadband, and CDLI addresses infrastructure gaps in schools and the communities in which those schools are situated. Both programs work in parallel to improve the quality of life of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and help businesses in rural and remote areas, through improved access to e-government and other on-line services, like distance learning and telemedicine.

"Putting the necessary infrastructure in place now will prepare us for the future and ensure the province has modern infrastructure in a globally competitive environment," Minister Dunderdale said. "I am confident that when we complete this process, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will have access to one of the most advanced networks in Canada and many communities will be able to leverage this technology into a wide array of new economic, social and cultural development opportunities."

Media contact: Lynn Evans, Communications (709)729-4570, 690-6290

2005 11 10        2:35 p.m.


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