By Ron Giofu
Connecting Windsor-Essex’s SWIFT initiative isn’t swift enough for the town of Amherstburg.
Dan Circelli, representing Connecting Windsor-Essex, said SWIFT stands for Southwest Integrated Fibre Technology and received $190 million in July 2016 to help improve high speed internet in the region. An RFP process soon gets underway with the build across the southwestern Ontario region to start in 2018. Ultimately, every home and business would be connected in about 20 years to an open access internet network where there would be competition under multiple providers.
Circelli indicated there are limited providers now, which negatively impacts prices for consumers.
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo questioned the timetable, with Circelli saying that municipal projects could be funded up to 70 per cent if they build a fiber optic internet through the SWIFT initiative.
“That doesn’t stop you from saying ‘we want to get ahead quicker,’” said Circelli. “I will help you move SWIFT more swiftly.
DiCarlo said following the meeting that he recalls seeing fiber optic internet tested in the 1990’s.
“This is not new technology,” he said.
DiCarlo added he understands the concerns of residents battling with internet problems.
“I’m just as frustrated as they are,” he said.
Amherstburg is “playing catch-up” with regards to getting such internet technology, but said they are not alone in Ontario or within Canada.
“Administration is trying to find a partner to bring Amherstburg into the 21st Century, for lack of a better term,” said DiCarlo.
The town may not be able to do it alone and may need the help of a third party, but the town is looking for a solution sooner rather than later, the mayor indicated.
“As soon as we have anything, (the residents) will be the second to know right after council,” said DiCarlo.
DiCarlo added “there’s fiber optic everywhere” but getting the internet and television conglomerates that own it to let the town use it has been difficult.
“We’ll be continuing to work for an Amherstburg solution as well as a provincial and national solution,” DiCarlo indicated.
Councillor Leo Meloche also voiced concern about the timeline.
“I have a big concern when you say 20 years,” he told Circelli. “With the speed of technology, 20 years is like 1,000 years. I think SWIFT’s mandate is to take 20 years and make it five years.”