Toronto: City Council has approved ConnectTO – a City-driven collaborative program that aims to leverage the use of municipal resources and assets to increase digital equity and expand access to affordable, high-speed internet to underserved Toronto residents.
By approving the creation of a City broadband network, ConnectTO will help ensure Torontonians are not being left behind because of the high price of reliable internet service and gaps in the availability of high-speed internet in some areas.
Bridging this growing digital divide supports Toronto’s most vulnerable and marginalized residents in accessing vital services and resources.
The network will be created by using City assets, such as existing fibre assets, buildings, lights, sidewalks and boulevards, and will be delivered to homes and businesses by a private sector partner. Access will be offered to qualified service providers, at a fair price, to generate revenue, which will be re-invested back into communities to expand access to internet service and help lower costs.
The program also aims to streamline and update existing City processes to ensure internet connectivity (public Wi-Fi, laying fibre conduits in existing construction work, etc.) is embedded in planning and execution of various City activities.
ConnectTO will be deployed using a phased delivery and will be launched and tested in the community areas of Jane and Finch (Humber River-Black Creek), Golden Mile (Scarborough Centre) and Malvern (Scarborough North) starting in late 2021.
Staff may explore opportunities for additional Phase 1 ConnectTO sites. Phase 2 of the project plans to see the network launched city-wide starting in early 2022.
Council recommended the following:
• develop a strategic framework, work plan and implement Phase 1 of ConnectTO;
• develop a digital equity policy as part of the Digital Infrastructure Plan;
• review business models of municipal broadband delivery, including but not limited to joint ventures and public-private partnerships;
• examine ways to integrate affordable high-speed internet into all new affordable housing development projects and all large-scale revitalization projects;
• accelerate the current Wi-Fi pilot at Toronto Community Housing Corporation and explore the feasibility of expanding it;
• engage with the City’s tech community in an information gathering session, to leverage community expertise City staff will report back to Council by end of 2021.