FAQs

Questions about SWIFT? We have answers.

Below, you’ll find answers to some of the common questions we get asked about SWIFT.

What is SWIFT?

Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) is a non-profit regional broadband project initiated by the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus  and delivered in partnership with the federal and provincial government to subsidize the construction of an open-access, ultra high-speed broadband network in Southwestern Ontario, Caledon and the Niagara Region.

The goal of the SWIFT initiative is to enable the expansion of fibre-optic networks by lessening the financial burden on service providers that have determined that it is too expensive to buildout Internet infrastructure in areas where the distance between customers is too great.

As a result, SWIFT will be directing government and private sector investment into fibre-optic broadband infrastructure in underserved areas within its project region. The project model ensures that funding is used to directly benefit areas that do not have access to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC) universal service objective of 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload for fixed broadband services.

SWIFT’s network will be built, owned and operated by Telecom Service Providers (TSPs), with subsidies and oversight by the SWIFT Board of Directors.

The project approach strives towards the overarching goals of narrowing the digital divide and making small-town Ontario more competitive in the information economy.

To learn more about SWIFT:

What are SWIFT's Guiding Principles?

SWIFT is based on seven guiding principles:

  1. Standards-based architecture: the system will interoperate with all other systems and will be easy to support;
  2. High availability and scalability: SWIFT will be available at any moment in time, whenever users need it and it will scale to tens of millions of user connections and applications dynamically without requiring any additional capital outlays or causing system delays;
  3. Neutrality and open access: there will be no barriers to entry for users and providers to access the network, levelling the playing field and ensuring that contractual mechanisms and oversight are in place to ensure the network is open and accessible to all;
  4. Ubiquity and equitability: the network will be physically accessible to everyone and everyone will face similar costs to provide applications and services over the system or use applications and services on the system, regardless of geographic point of ingress/egress;
  5. Competition and affordability: SWIFT will promote competition in services and applications by providing open access, high-availability, and a differentiated system that is affordable to users regardless of population density;
  6. Broad public-sector user participation: SWIFT has received broad public-sector support from county level and municipal governments, post-secondary educational institutions, health care institutions, community networks, and other ‘MUSH’ sector organizations. The support of all Ontario Public Service (OPS) and Broader Public Sector (BPS) users are critical, as these organizations are ‘anchor tenants’ to the system and create the underlying foundation that makes it feasible to extend service to private enterprises, small and medium sized business, farmers and residents;
  7. Sustainability: all users will pay fees to access the network, which will be published and publicly available to ensure transparency. These fees will provide the cash flow sustainability required to support ongoing operating and capital costs, and ensure that the network will not be dependent on taxpayer subsidies in the future. After Phase 1 is complete and the network is operational SWIFT will collect a small percentage of revenue from the successful Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) from each service sold to consumers over the SWIFT Network. The residuals will be added to SWIFT’s Broadband Development Fund (BDF) along with sponsorship funds and more upper level government funding. SWIFT’s Board of Directors will use the BDF to continue to subsidize providers to build fibre-optic infrastructure until the entire region has access to fibre-based broadband.

The Intelligent Community Forum Canada (ICF) has adopted the same principles as SWIFT in its recent position paper, which argues for broadband to be considered a basic utility and which makes the case for widespread fibre diffusion as key to enabling Canada’s competitiveness in the digital economy.

Don't we already have high-speed Internet? Is SWIFT duplicating existing services?

In Ontario, and across Canada, rural, remote and First Nation communities encounter substantial barriers to building and expanding broadband infrastructure networks. Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) are reluctant to extend services into these areas because there are significant up-front costs and marginal to non-existent rates of return.

As a result, much of rural Ontario’s current Internet infrastructure networks are sparse, ineffective, and built on outdated technology. This situation also breeds a near-monopoly in the market that triggers higher prices, fewer choices and less innovation.

In partnership with the Ontario government, the government of Canada and Southwestern municipalities, SWIFT has been established to respond to the gaps in broadband access in Southwestern Ontario and narrow the digital divide within the project region.

As a result, SWIFT will fund the geographic expansion of broadband network infrastructure to increasing high-speed Internet access in underserved areas within Southwestern Ontario, Caledon and Niagara.

SWIFT intends to achieve this by directing government and private sector investment into fibre-optic broadband infrastructure within the underserved areas within the SWIFT project region. The project model is flexible to TSPs of all sizes and ensures that funds are only allocated to projects that would not have otherwise occurred in the absence of government subsidy.

The SWIFT network will deliver an open-access, ultra-high-speed regional broadband network making it easier, faster and ultimately more affordable for TSPs to deliver services to consumers.

How is the SWIFT network being built and who is building it?

SWIFT represents a significant change in the way we think about and fund investments in broadband. The SWIFT network will be built, owned and operated by Telecom Service Providers (TSPs), with subsidies and oversight by the SWIFT Board of Directors with significant public-sector representation.

SWIFT has issued a Request for Prequalification (RFPQ) whereby currently twenty-six (26) TSPs have prequalified and are eligible, as potential proponents to participate in the SWIFT RFP processes. From time-to-time SWIFT will re-open the RFPQ process to allow new TSPs to be added to the list where appropriate.  Contractors who have an interest in contributing to the RFP submission should contact the prequalified TSPs directly.

Why is SWIFT only funding fibre-optic infrastructure?

Fibre based broadband access is the most reliable and proven technology with extremely high quality of service and broadband speeds. In addition, it is the most future proof technology among the existing broadband technologies with the capacity to accommodate the growing broadband of the future.

With high-speeds along with low latency, fibre based broadband networks can support data intensive applications such as cloud computing, 4K video streaming, Internet of Things (IoT) network, artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Moreover, fibre optic infrastructure is also crucial in smart city or smart community ecosystem where it acts as the backbone for various connectivity requirements of applications such as CCTV surveillance and Control Centres.

Presently, various rural and remote areas in Southwestern Ontario are served with low speed broadband access via technologies like satellite or fixed wireless networks. Such technologies are not affordable and place restrictive data caps on consumption. With fibre deployments, it is possible to serve all such locations with affordable high-speed broadband with no data caps given its very high capacity.

It is also important to understand that the underlying infrastructure for all modern technologies such as LTE, 5G, high-speed fixed wireless, and private LTE is fibre optic cabling. Such technologies leverage fibre as their backbone while delivering wireless services to end users. In order to deploy these technologies in the future, it is imperative to have a fibre backbone infrastructure in place.

Will my community get connected to the SWIFT network?

SWIFT has developed an interactive map based on information received from local Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to outline areas within the project region that are considered exclusion zones, an area that currently has access to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC) universal service objective of 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload (50/10), for the purposes of Phase 1 of our project.

If you would like to find out if you are located in an eligible funding area or within a exclusion zone, click here. The light blue/purple overlay on the map represent areas that currently have 50/10 (or better) service and are therefore ineligible for SWIFT funding.

How the network is designed:

It is important to note that SWIFT’s network will be built, owned and operated by TSPs, with subsidies and oversight by the SWIFT Board of Directors.

Through a procurement process, TSPs who have the experience and depth of capability will bid on a project and proposal the most efficient and effect network designs to address connectivity challenges within their local areas.  Therefore, SWIFT is currently unable to share the exactly location/specific addresses that will be impact from the project until after the Request for Proposal (RFP) phase has closed and a successful proponent has been selected.

SWIFT estimates that there is a $2.7 billion infrastructure deficit in Southwestern Ontario and while Phase 1 of the project will begin the initial first steps in the process to address connectivity challenges within the region, not all household/premises that are located in “underserved areas” are guaranteed to be connected in Phase 1.  However, Phase one will connect roughly 25% of Southwestern Ontario’s underserved premises and will further assist in improved access from existing technologies (like wireless) that leverage fibre’s greater capacity.

SWIFT’s project region includes: Brant County, Bruce County, Town of Caledon, Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Dufferin County, Elgin County, Essex County, Grey County, Huron County, Lambton County, Middlesex County, Regional Municipality of Niagara, Norfolk County, , Oxford County, Perth County, Simcoe County, Waterloo Region, Wellington County and the City of Windsor.

If you live within the boundaries of any of these communities, SWIFT is currently working with your local government and local providers.

Will everyone get connected to the SWIFT network in Phase 1 of the project plan? (2016-2021)

SWIFT estimates that there is a $2.7B broadband infrastructure deficit in Southwestern Ontario. SWIFT’s initial investment represents the critical first steps in narrowing the digital divide and will impact 25% of the regions underserved communities.

The exact location of the network and timing of construction will be determined in the procurement process as Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) will bid on project areas and proposal the most efficient and effect network designs to address connectivity challenges within their local areas.  SWIFT will evaluate each purposal based upon a predefined evaluation criterion. The process is designed to ensure the geographical expansion of the network and to increase access in underserved communities

After the completion of Phase 1, SWIFT will continue to actively engage and collaborate with government and the private sector for funding until all Southwestern Ontario, Caledon and Niagara Region is connected.

Why should my community become a member of SWIFT?

SWIFT is a buying group of municipalities, First Nations, school boards, universities, hospitals, businesses and community network groups from across the project region. Aggregating the demand as a buying group will increase the buying power and negotiating clout of SWIFT while providing subsidies to Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to make the entirety of their investment viable.

In 2016, participating member municipalities leveraged nearly $15 million each to secure provincial and federal funding – rather than attempting to leverage smaller, individual investments as individual applicants and potentially receiving a small fraction of funding. By investing in this project together, members achieve greater buying power and influence, which is already dramatically changing the landscape for how broadband infrastructure is funded, built and provided in Southwestern Ontario, Caledon and the Niagara Region.

To learn more about becoming a SWIFT member, please visit our membership webpage or contact Adriana Dekker, Stakeholder Relations Manager at adriana.dekker@swiftnetwork.ca.

Why can't my community connect me directly?

In Ontario, very few municipalities have undertaken owning and operating community broadband networks (for example: Kingston and Stratford). While it’s considered a basic telecommunications service, broadband access is not considered a core service for local governments (or governments at any level), so there is no mandate and limited resources for municipalities to own and operate a broadband network. Most municipalities face the same pressures as consumers when it comes to choosing affordable broadband – including lack of choice and lack of influence in the market.

There is also a significant lack of information about where existing infrastructure exists and about the powers of municipalities to compel broadband network construction – leading to some myths and misunderstandings. Before and without SWIFT, municipalities are limited in their ability to influence service providers to build fibre-optic infrastructure and there is little incentive for service providers to build where they do not perceive a significant return on investment. This is the key reason why the Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, an organization representing 15 upper and single tier municipalities in Southwestern Ontario, initiated the SWIFT project and additional municipal partners have joined  – to increase local government influence and ensure broadband networks are built and services are extended to communities that need them.

Why are big cities joining SWIFT? Isn't this a rural broadband project?

SWIFT is a regional broadband initiative. We need every possible partner in the region on board to make sure we can build an efficient, effective, and economical network. Urban cores are undoubtedly better connected than our most rural and remote communities – but having urban centres involved helps increase our market influence, makes the project attractive to service providers, and ensures important geographic and economic hubs are connected not only to each other but to smaller markets. Also, economically challenged neighbourhoods with urban centres are generally not as well served as more affluent neighbourhoods. Our entire region needs SWIFT and the more we can work collaboratively with all communities, the more robust and revolutionary our network will be.

How long will it take to build the SWIFT network? What will it look like when it's finished?

SWIFT will provide next generation fibre optic connectivity to its project region through the first five-year phase. The goal is to connect as many residents, farms, businesses and public organizations to high-speed Internet during the five-year timeframe with the current allotted government and private sector investments.

Currently, SWIFT estimates its project region faces an infrastructure deficit of around $2.7B when it comes to fibre-optic connectivity. Phase 1 of the project will begin the initial first steps in the process of narrowing the digital divide and making small-town Ontario more competitive in the information economy.

During Phase 1, SWIFT has designed a procurement process to successfully identify existing infrastructure and service gaps to accurately plan to address those gaps as efficiently and as effectively as possible. It is important to note that SWIFT’s network will be built, owned and operated by TSPs, with subsidies and oversight by the SWIFT Board of Directors.

Through a procurement process, TSPs who have the experience and depth of capability will bid on a project and proposal the most efficient and effect network designs to address connectivity challenges within their local areas.  SWIFT will evaluate each proposal based upon a predefined evaluation criterion. The process is designed to ensure the geographical expansion of the network and to increase access in underserved communities.

Why is it taking so long to build the SWIFT network?

SWIFT is a chance to change the way broadband infrastructure is funded, built, and operated in Ontario – and in Canada. As one of the largest regional publicly funded broadband projects in the country, SWIFT is extremely sensitive to the fact that most of its funding comes from public investments therefor investments need to be spent wisely.

SWIFT is designing a network that solves as many of the connectivity challenges in the project region as possible and therefore this requires time to adequately engage critical experts and stakeholders throughout the process to make sure we get it right. As a result, the planning process has taken longer than originally anticipated, however SWIFT believes it is now on track to build the best solution to address the region’s connectivity challenges.

Which areas will be built first?

SWIFT has issued a Request for Prequalification (RFPQ) whereby twenty-six(26) Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) have prequalified and are eligible, as potential proponents, to participate in the SWIFT RFP processes. SWIFT is currently conducting data analysis and developing a comprehensive needs assessment that will assist in evaluating and prioritizing project areas within the region. It is important to note, that from time-to-time SWIFT will re-open the RFPQ process to allow new TSPs to be added to the list where appropriate.

As the project moves forward SWIFT will launch a series of Request for Proposals (RFPs). During this phase of the project, SWIFT’s prequalified TSPs who have the experience and depth of capability will bid on a project and proposal the most efficient and effect network designs to address connectivity challenges within their local areas. SWIFT will evaluate each proposal based upon a predefined evaluation criterion. The process is designed to ensure the geographical expansion of the network and to increase access in underserved communities

As a result, SWIFT’s network will be built, owned and operated by TSPs, with subsidies and oversight by the SWIFT Board of Directors.

When will I get better service as a result of SWIFT?

SWIFT has already fundamentally changed the way the public sector is investing in broadband, and with the recent CRTC ruling that Internet is a basic telecommunications service, the work that SWIFT is doing in partnership with its stakeholders should accelerate the long-range forecast for when Ontarians can expect affordable, high-speed broadband service. SWIFT encourages residents to reach out to elected officials and local community leaders to underscore how important broadband infrastructure is to your life and livelihood, and to encourage them to explore ways that additional funding programs may be used to support local broadband projects that align with SWIFT.

Why is this being publicly funded? Why not leave this to the private sector?

Private businesses must, understandably, invest their resources where they can expect the greatest return on investment. Service providers often argue that it’s difficult to invest in building expensive infrastructure in areas where there aren’t enough customers to guarantee a return on investment. This is where SWIFT comes in. SWIFT will leverage public investment to subsidize and incentivize service providers to build where there are infrastructure gaps, such as low density rural and remote communities, which will help offset some of the risk associated with building the infrastructure. Most critically, SWIFT’s open access principles mean that the network will encourage more competition from a greater number of service providers, lowering prices and increasing choices for consumers. By aggregating the demand of members and supporting the building of infrastructure in urban and rural areas, the “SWIFT Effect” supports the business cases of telecom service providers.

Will SWIFT fund fibre-to-the-door?

The initial construction of Phase 1 of the SWIFT project, is expected to result in fibre connectivity to existing telephone, cable and wireless systems yielding improvements in broadband access in the short-term. Out of a typical 96-strand count fibre cable, 94 strands will be available to potentially provide last-mile connections to individual homes and businesses and strand counts of cable segments may be higher. Connecting everyone in Southwestern Ontario, Caledon and the Niagara Region requires overcoming an infrastructure deficit of approximately $2.7B (depending on geography and benchmarks). The SWIFT model is a funding mechanism for addressing this gap fairly and equitably over the long-term.

Who will own the SWIFT network? How will service providers be involved?

Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) will participate through an open procurement process and they will build, own, and operate the network. SWIFT will be an open-access network, where all service providers compete to deliver services to consumers. As a buying group, SWIFT will ensure greater competition between TSPs. More competition gives consumers more choices, which leads to better services and typically lower prices. This has been documented by the CRTC and Industry Canada, as well as demonstrated by numerous models from across Canada and around the world as reported in the SWIFT Feasibility Study.

Will SWIFT be a service provider?

The SWIFT Network is an integrated part of the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) networks. SWIFT will be built, owned and operated by telecom providers, with subsidies and oversight by SWIFT’s Board of Directors with significant public-sector representation. Subscribers won’t be signing contracts or receiving bills from SWIFT for Internet services. SWIFT will be subsidizing service providers to build fibre-optic infrastructure across Southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and the Niagara Region.

What is the role of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC)?

Residential Internet users are retail customers who buy Internet services from an independent service provider or large cable or telephone company. The CRTC regulates radio, television and telecommunications services in Canada – but does not usually regulate the prices or the way Internet services are billed to retail customers. At the wholesale level, the CRTC requires that large companies sell access to their networks under specific terms and conditions. Service providers also use this access, in conjunction with their own networks, to offer Internet and other services to their own retail customers. You can learn more about how the CRTC sets wholesale rates at: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/internet/facbill.htm

What does the CRTC ruling on broadband as a basic telecommunications service mean for SWIFT?

On December 21, 2016, the CRTC ruled that all Canadians – including rural and remote communities – should have access to broadband Internet service. They also set new targets for these services:

  • Speeds of at least 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload (fixed broadband services)
  • Unlimited data option for fixed broadband services
  • The latest mobile wireless technology available not only to all homes and businesses, but also along all major Canadian roads

At the same time, the CRTC announced that $750 million in funding will be available over the first five years to help communities meet these targets. To be eligible, projects must be complementary to existing and future private investment and public funding, focus on underserved areas, and be managed at arm’s length by a third party. SWIFT is pleased to see our national regulatory body take significant steps toward supporting the importance of connecting rural Canadians. SWIFT will make this ruling come to life by funding the construction of broadband for everyone in Southwestern Ontario, Caledon and the Niagara Region.

What does the CRTC ruling on broadband as a basic telecommunications service mean for consumers?

The CRTC has set a target of connecting 90% of Canadians to Internet services that meet their target speeds within five years (2021), with the rest of the country being connected by 2031. There is no easy, immediate solution for connecting many of the rural and remote communities that are currently facing the biggest hurdle to accessing the CRTC target speeds. The ruling also did not set any benchmarks for ensuring Internet services are affordable. If you live in the SWIFT region, the CRTC ruling means that the federal regulatory body has endorsed the principles we’ve been advocating for since 2011 – which is good news for helping accelerate our work through increased participation and cooperation with our partners and with service providers. The most important news is the momentum that comes from the combination of the federal budget commitments to broadband investments in rural and remote communities, the CRTC ruling, and the federal and provincial investment in SWIFT. Taken together, they point to our region likely exceeding both the service targets and the achievement dates on several fronts.

What can I do if I'm unsatisfied with my Internet service?

If you are unsatisfied with your Internet service, we suggest raising these issues with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to see if they can be resolved. ISPs are ultimately responsible for the equipment they offer, their billing and marketing practices, their quality of service and customer relations. If you have issues with your ISP, you should contact their customer service lines and escalate your concerns up to the manager level (if necessary). If your issues cannot be resolved or your Internet service does not improve, there are at least two courses of action you can take:

  1. Switch ISPs:
    • You are free to switch Internet service providers. To see which ISPs currently provide service in your area, enter your address in the Government of Canada’s Eligibility Map.
  2. Make a complaint:
    • You may wish to bring your concerns to the attention of the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS), an independent organization that has been established to provide consumers and small businesses with recourse when they are unable to resolve disagreements with their telecommunications service providers. For more information concerning the CCTS, including how to file a complaint, please visit the CCTS website at www.ccts-cprst.ca/en/complaints/guide. The CCTS can also be reached toll-free at 1-888-221-1687, or by mail at P.O. Box 81088, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1B1.
    • If your issue falls outside of the mandate of the CCTS, you may wish to contact the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC): Canada toll-free: 1-877-249-CRTC (2782) or toll-free TTY line: 1-877-909-CRTC (2782).

How can I support SWIFT?

We appreciated the great support we received from citizens, businesses, and organizations across the region as we worked toward securing funding. Now, as we work toward implementing the project, we still welcome your stories about why SWIFT is important to you and why you want to see the project succeed. Your continued support and engagement through letters of support, following and interacting with us on social media, and expressing your support to your community leaders are all critical to helping us continue to move forward.