The government confirmed on Tuesday morning an envelope of $ 150M to finalize its commitment to connect all Quebec homes to high speed Internet by September 2022. Between 15,000 and 30,000 additional homes could be connected.
This new investment, phase 3 of the Éclair project, should make it possible to connect orphan homes scattered in remote areas of the province. And everything will have to be done quickly, remarked himself the person in charge of the project in the government, the parliamentary assistant to the Prime Minister, Gilles Bélanger.
“There are 312 days left to have connected all the households in Quebec. It’s not a lot. Our government has made a bold commitment, ”admitted Mr. Bélanger at a press briefing, insisting, however, on his high level of confidence.
“Éclair III is an extremely fast tool. Normally, to award contracts, we would talk about several months, with the Éclair III component, we talk about a few days, ”explained the manager, confirming that around thirty projects were already on the table.
Photo Pierre-Paul Biron
From left to right: Luc Provençal, Member of Parliament for Beauce-Nord; Gilles Bélanger, parliamentary assistant to the Prime Minister for the high speed Internet component; Stéphanie Lachance, Member of Parliament for Bellechasse; André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture and responsible for the Chaudiere-Appalaches region; Jacques Demers, president of the Quebec federation of municipalities.
After the launch of the first two phases of the project earlier in 2021, the Government of Quebec has set up the latest milestone aimed at reaching households that are isolated or that were simply not listed in the latest coverage maps of the territory.
“What we are talking about today are territories that had not been assigned, ends of rows or perhaps that was not part of the map given to Bell or Videotron for a given territory. These are really exceptional cases and cases that are difficult to connect ”, explains Gilles Bélanger.
This new investment rejoices and reassures the president of the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités (FQM), who wanted no household to be left behind.
“The next step, the importance that the municipal world will have, is to look at the maps and to see concretely on the ground which houses we have left. This is a very important step, we must not forget anyone ”, underlined Jacques Demers.
The latter also underlined the impact of such a technological leap for several of its members.
“There is a government promise that we will not forget. That of 5,000 civil servant jobs in the region. If we want to have them, we must also equip them, ”cites the president of the FQM as an example. “People say they want to live in the regions, they have to be given the tools.”
“Ready for any eventuality”
According to government estimates, there are currently around 200,000 households that still do not have high-speed Internet access. As several works are already in progress, Gilles Bélanger hopes that this figure will be “a little above 100,000” during the next update of the situation, scheduled for the beginning of 2022.
The next few months will therefore be critical for the government in order to reach the target for next September.
Especially since Bell indicated in a press release a few weeks ago that it had doubts about the possibility of achieving this objective. The supplier, which must grant access rights to its poles to several internet providers, claimed to have only received half of the requests necessary to proceed with the work.
An observation that does not worry Gilles Bélanger for the moment.
“Probably the figure had been a bit overestimated. We end up with a pace of permit application that meets the targets, ”indicates the person in charge of the file, adding that Quebec is however“ ready for any eventuality ”.
“In the contracts, we follow up every month. If a supplier is behind on his schedule, we have the option of defaulting him and taking on another supplier. […] And I will not wait until September 30, 2022 to tell a supplier that he is late, ”he says.
The total cost of the operation for Quebec is currently $ 1.3 billion.