By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—Following the June 3 article on the cancellation of the County-backed broadband internet expansion project being spearheaded by Simcoe-based KWIC Internet, The Press was contacted by both Xplornet Communications Inc. and the County to offer some clarification on what has transpired.
Haldimand County issued a statement, which read, “Numerous changes have occurred in the telecommunications sector, which is governed federally by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). These changes, including amalgamation, increased grant funding opportunities, and new technological opportunities, have increased competition in this sector and made servicing rural communities more attractive.”
Along with these changes, Xplornet has made significant inroads in Haldimand County, purchasing various local companies and stepping up its expansion efforts. While the timeline with KWIC indicated a five-year-long development phase, Xplornet is touting much more ambitious numbers, stating they plan to roll out 600km of fibre optic cable to over 19,000 homes and businesses throughout Haldimand in just two years. Johanne Senecal, VP of Government and Public Affairs for Xplornet, said that the acquisition of Metro Loop in December kicked off Xplornet’s two-year plan to lay over 600km of fibre optic cable.
Haldimand County CAO Craig Manley noted that the initial goal of the broadband project when established in 2019 was “to incentivize the expansion of broadband to encourage its development in rural areas,” a goal which the County feels has since transpired outside of its agreement.
“Given this increased competition and the arrival of large, nationally backed service providers in our community, Haldimand County and KWIC Internet have mutually decided to terminate the agreement to facilitate broadband internet service across the County,” read the County statement. KWIC Internet has made no statement on the matter.
Last week, based on comments made by Mayor Ken Hewitt, it was reported that Xplornet Communications had “merged” with KWIC Internet, but this did not occur.
“Xplornet has not acquired KWIC Internet,” said Senecal.
Manley added, “It is our understanding that KWIC Internet as a company has not been acquired by Xplornet Communications Inc., however, some of the infrastructure recently emplaced and owned by KWIC in Haldimand County may be of interest to Xplornet for acquisition as part of its expansion efforts. This is a matter between the two private sector companies.”
Despite losing the initial County bid for the broadband project to KWIC last summer, Xplornet continued on with their own plans to invest over $500 million into a national broadband network.
As Mayor Hewitt mentioned last week, Haldimand County stands between Xplornet’s hub in Simcoe and the Niagara region if the company wishes to continue expanding east.
“While local circumstances have changed in terms of how broadband expansion is taking place, Council’s goal of bringing high-speed internet to rural communities across Haldimand is expected to be achieved through increased competition in the area resulting in better internet service in a quicker timeframe for our residents and businesses,” said Hewitt.
The County intends to continue monitoring the progress of Xplornet’s project and will provide regular updates to Council on both availability of the service and overall progress.
“Haldimand County is excited to see the commitment by Xplornet to the establishment of high-speed broadband in the short term and is currently facilitating the necessary municipal approvals processes to allow the installation of fiber and other technologies throughout the county,” concluded Manley.