WINGHAM, ONT. -- Politicians in Southwestern Ontario believe it will take $1 billion to bring internet to 95 per cent of Southwestern Ontario residents by 2026.

During the most recent Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus, leaders from the region approved a series of recommendations to support rural broadband in an area stretching from Tobermory to Windsor.

To complete the Canadian government’s target of internet for 95 per cent of homes and businesses, the Western Ontario Warden’s Caucus is asking for $254 million from the federal government, and $221 million from the provincial government.

The wardens say, along with $172 million in public-private partnerships, they will begin to address the infrastructure shortfall in the region.

"The Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus supports the funding of existing shovel ready, municipally led projects that will connect our rural economies at an accelerated pace. We support SWIFT as Southwestern Ontario’s funding mechanism to advance the expansion of critical broadband infrastructure across the region,” says Jim Ginn, Chair of the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, as well as Warden of Huron County.

“Families and businesses in our rural areas have been shut out of the economy and society as a result of the pandemic. COVID -19 has underscored the need for urgency to address gaps in broadband services across our region. The SWIFT model works, it delivers results and can be immediately leveraged to upgrade networks and coverage in our region’s underserved areas,” says George Cornell, Vice-Chair of SWIFT (Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology)  and Warden of Simcoe County.

Ten per cent of Canada’s population lives in Southwestern Ontario, so the wardens feel this would be money well spent to bring the region, up to par with more urban parts of the country.