Ultra-high Speed Broadband
the Prosperity Imperative for Southwestern Ontario
Questions about SWIFT? We have answers.
We’re working hard to build broadband for everyone. We know you have questions about how we’re going to accomplish our goals and invest our funding. Below, you’ll find answers to some of the common questions we get asked about SWIFT and the work we’re doing to connect everyone in Southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and Niagara Region.
What is SWIFT?
SWIFT stands for SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology. The project was created to develop a long-term infrastructure plan to help our region compete, connect and keep pace in a changing digital world by building a holistic, ultra-high speed fibre optic network. We’ve based our work on the simple principle that regardless of who you are, or where you live or work, you deserve access to high-speed internet.
SWIFT is a registered, not-for-profit, non-share capital corporation governed by public sector organizations, large commercial enterprises, small and medium sized businesses, farmers, and residents. You can learn more about our Board of Directors and staff at www.swiftnetwork.ca
SWIFT is not a service provider. We’ll be subsidizing service providers to build fibre-optic infrastructure across Southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and Niagara Region. SWIFT will be the managing owner (51%) of the network for the first phase of the project, but the infrastructure will be built, managed, serviced, and partially owned (49%) by service providers.
What are SWIFT's Guiding Principles?
SWIFT is based on seven guiding principles:
- Standards-based architecture: the system will interoperate with all other systems and will be easy to support;
- 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;
- 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;
- Ubiquity and equitability: the network will be physical accessible to everyone and everyone will face the same costs to provide applications and services over the system or use applications and services on the system, regardless of geographic point of ingress/egress;
- Competition and affordability: SWIFT will promote competition in services and applications over by providing open access, flat-rates, high-availability, and a differentiated system that is affordable to users regardless of population density;
- 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, broadband networks, and other ‘MUSH’ sector organizations. The support of all OPS/BPS users is 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;
- Sustainability: all users will pay fees to access the network, which will be published and publically 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.
ICF Canada has adopted the same principles as SWIFT in it’s CRTC 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?
No, most of Southwestern Ontario is not served by fibre optics today. For communities that do have access to fibre services, many of them are connected through legacy technology that does not meet current needs, let alone future requirements. For others, the fibre optic strand counts are not high enough to support fibre-to-the-home connectivity. SWIFT’s unified system will make it easier, faster and cheaper for service providers to deliver services to consumers everywhere in Southwestern Ontario. After the initial discovery phase of the upcoming procurement process, SWIFT will build fibre exactly where it is needed to maximize the impact of the investment.
Who is covered by SWIFT?
Anyone living, working, or running a business in any community that belongs to a SWIFT member county or municipality will be covered by the project design. Our members include:
- Brant County
- Bruce County
- Town of Caledon
- Dufferin County
- Elgin County
- Essex County
- Grey County
- Huron County
- Lambton County
- Middlesex County
- Norfolk County
- Oxford County
- Perth County
- Region of Niagara
- Simcoe County
- Wellington County
- Region of Waterloo
- Town of Orillia
If you live in any of these counties or municipalities, or any of the communities within their boundaries, we’ll be working with your local leaders, local businesses, and service providers to connect you through our project plan.
Why should my community invest in SWIFT?
By investing in SWIFT, rather than going it alone, participating member municipalities leveraged nearly $15 million each to secure $180 million in provincial and federal funding – rather than attempting to leverage smaller, individual investments as individual applicants and potentially receiving a small fraction of that 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.
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 that the original Western Ontario Wardens’ Caucus members and additional municipal partners have joined SWIFT – to increase local government influence and ensure broadband networks are built and services are extended to communities that need them.
Why is it taking so long to build SWIFT?
Ever heard the line that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”? Well, holistic, ultra-high-speed fibre-optic networks can’t be built over night, either. We know it’s frustrating to hear – but we’re hard at work making sure we build the best solutions to our region’s connectivity challenges.
SWIFT is a once-in-an-era chance to change the way broadband infrastructure is funded, built, and operated in Ontario – and in Canada. We’re the largest regional publicly funded broadband project in the country to date – and we want to make sure we get it right. We’re extremely sensitive to the fact that the majority of our funding comes from public investments and our community-driven priorities mean we want to ensure that investment is spent wisely.
We also want to design the best possible network that solves as many of the connectivity challenges in our region as possible, so we’re engaging critical experts and stakeholders throughout the process to make sure we get it right.
Our region faces a $4-7 billion infrastructure deficit when it comes to fibre-optic connectivity. Phase 1 of SWIFT will invest nearly $300 million and represents critical first steps in addressing this gap.
Keep in mind that, although we’ve been around since 2012, SWIFT only became fully funded in July 2016. We moved very quickly from funding to pre-qualifying 28 service providers and anticipate the first phase of construction to begin in early 2018 – meaning we’ll have moved from funding to shovels in the ground in approximately 18 months. We want to see the network built as efficiently and effectively as possible and appreciate your support throughout this journey.
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.
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 will SWIFT help?
As a buying group, SWIFT will ensure greater competition between telecom service providers. More competition gives consumers more choices, which leads to better services and lower prices. By working together, municipalities, First Nations, health care organizations, schools and school boards, colleges and universities, our members will benefit from the significant influence that comes from their collective buying power – and SWIFT’s principles of open access and transparency will help increase competition and lead to better services at lower prices for organizations, businesses, and residents alike.
How does #broadbandforeveryone benefit our region?
Economic Development & The New Economy
- Income disparity between rural and urban citizens is growing – but digital infrastructure can change that…
- Where thousands of well-paying industrial jobs have been lost over the past five years as multinationals move manufacturing off-shore or south of the border, many communities who were one-industry towns, must find new ways to pursue economic vitality. The new economy means that communities like Leamington, where 740 jobs were lost in a community of only 7515 households, need new ways of doing business. Technology and modern fibre-optic infrastructure means they can compete as a place for people to build a business and/or grow their lives.
- Without adapting to new technology, manufacturers struggle to retool their businesses in the face of competitive global economic forces. With broadband infrastructure, small manufacturers can be part of a global network.
- In rural and remote communities, the trend of youth leaving home for larger urban centres in search of jobs leads to brain drain. Connectivity means young leaders can live, work, and play in the community of their choice – without falling behind their urban peers.
- Small businesses and agricultural operations face the challenges of overcoming physical remoteness from supply-chains, marketplaces, financial capital, and government services. Fibre-optics mean that markets are a click away.
- If youth leave, businesses struggle to survive, and social and economic supports decline, the tax assessment base for a community shrinks, and funds for infrastructure dry up. SWIFT’s regional, holistic and collaborative approach to building infrastructure means that no one has to go it alone and every member leverages the significant investment power of the group. Member communities will benefit from a 4:1 ratio of investment value for investment dollar.
- Without ultra-high speed connectivity, communities across the region will be caught in a vicious cycle of economic decline and struggle to reverse the negative momentum. SWIFT promises to reverse this negative spiral and create a virtuous cycle where connectivity leads to thriving businesses and digital inclusion.
Social Connection & Digital Inclusion
- Without connectivity, rural students do not have equal access to content and resources versus their urban peers. As school enrollments decline in rural areas, schools close, and our communities lose vital hubs.
- As populations shrink, community centres, libraries, and recreation facilities shutter, while growing aged rural populations requiring local access to health and long term care find it increasingly harder to get; forcing them to travel to urban centres.
- Accessible, affordable ultra-high speed broadband means that no one will be left behind as our region works to compete in the digital economy. Connectivity means that rural and remote schools can offer more programming and work with students both inside and outside of school, while libraries and recreation centres can help support skill building and reduce social isolation.
- As governments, health care institutions, and social support programs work to help people stay in their communities through digital services, more people can age in place and remain in their home communities. Access to experts, care, and service will become easier, more accessible, and more affordable for the members of our communities who are most at risk from being left behind due to a lack of service and who stand to benefit tremendously from a network built to bring broadband to everyone.
Why is broadband access an important tool in economic and social revitalization?
- Unemployed and underemployed people need broadband access in order to search for jobs or start new businesses, social network with their community and potential employers or customers, access social services support, healthcare and education and other community-based resources.
- Farmers need broadband access to connect with their supply chain and marketplaces, and stay connected to embedded sensors for monitoring and control of soil conditions and irrigation systems, livestock location, feeding, and condition, crop environments, plant and equipment operation and maintenance, and receive up to the second weather information.
- Small and medium sized businesses need broadband access to market their goods and services, communicate with customers and suppliers, source funding and interact with employees working from home or on the road.
- Large commercial enterprise rely on broadband access to communicate with head office and peer locations, interact with suppliers and customers, and connect with employees working remotely.
- Public sector organizations like school boards, hospitals, county and municipal governments, First Nations, and federal and provincial government sites need connection to provide services and support for their students/patients/citizens and employees.
- Families and seniors require access to broadband to connect with family and friends, to access healthcare, education, government services, marketplaces, and entertainment.
- As people and organizations employ an increasing array of applications and embedded sensors that require connectivity, what Cisco calls the “Internet of Everything,” is rapidly emerging in Southwestern Ontario. We need a regional network that will scale to these inexorably growing requirements, and fibre optics is the answer. As shown in Figure 1 by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices or 7 devices person.
What are the barriers to broadband access?
As shown by the WOWC Broadband Feasibility Study:
- Incumbent telecom providers concentrate on areas with greatest population density to increase their return on investment, so many residents and businesses have only one provider and broadband access is limited or not available.
- Lack of telecom competition in many areas of the region leads to higher rates, fewer service choices, poorer services, and locked-in consumers.
- Inequality of access in-turn stifles regional economic and social renewal efforts by governments, hospitals, schools, and businesses.
How does SWIFT lead to economic and social prosperity?
- Equipping Canadians with access to the skills and training they require for obtaining high-quality, well-paying jobs.
- Helping manufacturers and businesses succeed in the global economy by better connecting them to it.
- Connecting families and communities so they have expanding opportunities to succeed and enjoy a high quality of life.
- Connecting youth to better access to education and employment from home.
- Connecting seniors for enhanced interactions with healthcare providers and support services at home.
Why is this being being publicly funded? Why not leave this to the private sector?
Private businesses must, understandably, invest their resources where they can expect a 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.
How much will SWIFT cost?
Extensive fibre optic assets currently exist across the region – however, there are significant gaps that leave many people disconnected. SWIFT will not overbuild existing infrastructure – we’re going to fill the gaps. By connecting existing infrastructure with new construction, we will create a holistic network that connects everyone. The greenfield budget estimate for SWIFT is $233,810,000, including $50 – $70 million in last-mile fibre.
How long will it take to build SWIFT? What will it look like when it's finished?
SWIFT will provide next generation fibre optic connectivity to the region through the first five-year phase. Initially, SWIFT will provide fibre optic coverage to all counties and separated municipalities in southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and Niagara Region, reaching approximately 350 communities with a total population of 3.5 million, with the lowest density community served at 4 persons per km2. The goal is to connect every resident, farm, business and public organization to fibre optics by 2040 or sooner.
Will SWIFT be over-building existing infrastructure?
No. For all telecom service providers who qualify and participate, there will be no over-building of fibre optic infrastructure. Rather, funds will go to close gaps in fibre infrastructure. In areas where the infrastructure is already in place, this means there will be substantial capacity to support further last mile build out.
Which areas will be built first?
To help us determine the parts of our region with the biggest service gaps, we’ll be posting a Request for Pre-Qualification (RFPQ) that will help us determine the areas with the greatest need by providing information about existing infrastructure and service levels. After we analyze the results of the RFPQ, we will open a competitive process for contractors to bid on building in the first round of eligible areas. We anticipate that there will be more than one phase to this process as the network continues to develop.
Will SWIFT solve 'last mile' challenges?
Out of the $281 million estimated for the initial construction of SWIFT, $60 – 70 million is earmarked for last-mile connections. Over 2700km of new fibre is estimated to be built in the first phase of the project. Out of a typical 96-strand count fibre cable, 94 strands will be available to provide last-mile connections to individual homes and businesses.
Connecting everyone in Southwestern Ontario requires overcoming an infrastructure deficit of approximately $4-7 billion (depending on geography and benchmarks). Without the SWIFT model in place, there is no mechanism for addressing this gap fairly and equitably. SWIFT will continue to subsidize telecom service providers until everyone in Southwestern Ontario is connected by fibre optics.
Who will own the SWIFT Network? How will service providers be involved?
Telecom service providers will participate through an open procurement process and they will build, own, and operate the network. Infrastructure Canada requires the municipal members of SWIFT to maintain 51% ownership of the assets of the network for the first 7 years of its operations (starting in 2020). After 7 years of ownership, Infrastructure Canada grants the recipient of funding (SWIFT) the choice to divest some-or-all of their equity stake to the service providers that built the infrastructure.
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 telecom service providers. More competition gives consumers more choices, which leads to better services and lower prices, as 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. Open access is a requirement of the federal government funding program.
Will SWIFT be a service provider?
The short answer: no. You won’t be signing contracts or receiving bills from SWIFT Inc. for Internet services. We’ll be subsidizing service providers to build fibre-optic infrastructure across Southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and Niagara Region. SWIFT will be a silent owner (51%) of the network for the first phase of the project, but the infrastructure will be built, managed, serviced, and partially owned (49%) by service providers following an open procurement process.
Why will telecom service providers participate in the SWIFT project?
When will the RFPQ/RFP open for contractors?
Like you, we’re keen to get moving! SWIFT covers an area with more than 3.5 million people – about 10% of Canada’s population – across nearly 20 counties and single-tier municipalities, and building a network of this scale requires good planning. We are currently finalizing the project design and will soon start the formal process to find out exactly what infrastructure already exists and create more detailed plans before holding an open and competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) process to award contracts to expand fibre. We expect to release the first RFPQ in mid-2017, with the complete RFP to follow later in the year. There will likely be more than one phase to this process, with the earliest construction beginning in 2018. In order to bid on the RFP, contractors must participate in the RFPQ process.
We will keep everyone updated throughout the process as we work towards building broadband for everyone.
How much funding will be available to contractors?
We anticipate that up to $180 million will be available to contractors as part of the contract awarding process. The RFP process will have two stages, including a pre-qualification stage. Funding will not be directed until pre-qualification stage has been completed.
We will keep everyone updated throughout the process as we work towards building broadband for everyone.
When will construction start?
We anticipate the earliest construction to begin in 2018. There will likely be multiple RFPQ and construction phases during the first five years of the project and into the long-term development of the network.
When will I get better service as a result of SWIFT?
While we expect construction to begin in 2018, it is still too early to say when homes and businesses will receive faster services. But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t improving. SWIFT has already fundamentally changed the way the public sector is investing in broadband, and with the recent additional commitment of $500 million by the federal government and the CRTC ruling that Internet is a basic telecommunications service, the work we’re doing should accelerate the long-range forecast for when Ontarians can expect affordable, ultra-high speed broadband service.
We encourage you to reach out to your 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.
What does the CRTC do?
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 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? What does it mean for me?
CRTC Ruling on Broadband and 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 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.
Since 2011, SWIFT has maintained that regardless of where you live, you deserve high-quality, ultra-high speed Internet service and we are 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 building broadband for everyone in southwestern Ontario, Caledon, and Niagara Region. We are still exploring the fine print of this announcement to determine what this means for SWIFT and will share more information as it becomes available.
What this means 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 advocacy 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.
How does the new Connect to Innovate program relate to SWIFT?
What is Connect to Innovate?
- On December 15, the Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced Connect to Innovate program.
- Connect to Innovate is what the federal government is calling the program promised in the 2016 Budget to expand broadband in rural and remote communities across Canada. Budget 2016 committed to deliver on the Government of Canada’s priority of increasing high-speed broadband coverage in rural and remote communities by investing up to $500 million over five years, starting in 2016-2017, and Connect to Innovate will channel those fund.
What does this mean for SWIFT?
- Connect to Innovate program is a strong complement to the $180 million already committed to SWIFT by the federal and provincial governments. Connect to Innovate will provide complementary investments to help expand broadband access across the country while we work to connect the 3.5 million people who live, work, and play in the region served by SWIFT.
- Communities covered by SWIFT are eligible to apply for funding under the Connect to Innovate program and may find that applying for this funding stream helps accelerate the work undertaken by SWIFT in their community. As an organization, SWIFT itself cannot apply for funding under Connect to Innovate as it would be consider “stacking.” However, member communities can apply to this program to accelerate local programs that complement SWIFT. We encourage you to reach out to your local municipal office to learn more about local applications to the Connect to Innovate program.
- The SWIFT team is currently working with member communities to determine potential opportunities for leveraging the Connect to Innovate program and to ensure that infrastructure projects within our region are fully integrated and complementary to the work already underway by SWIFT.
How can I get involved?
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.
Please contact Ashleigh Weeden, Communications Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org, to talk more about getting involved in spreading the word about why #broadbandforeveryone matters.
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Curious about your local community’s involvement in the project? Contact your local county office to learn more – and click here to find out how to do that.
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 first 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:
Switch Internet Service Providers:
You are free to switch Internet service providers. To see which ISPs currently provide service in your area, enter your address in our Eligibility Map.
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).
Ultra-high-speed refers to a network, which provides bandwidth (speed and capacity) that scales dynamically as user requirements grow; without service delays or cost increases associated with additional capital outlays