The Ontario Library Service (OLS) continues to work towards implementing the Connecting Public Libraries Initiative on behalf of the Province of Ontario.
Last year, the government announced an investment of $4.85 million to upgrade high-speed internet at approximately 50 public libraries in unserved and underserved communities across the province.
We are delighted to report that through the successful Request for Proposal (RFP) process, we will be able to upgrade 111 library locations, which more than doubles the original target of 50 public library branches. Through the Connecting Public Libraries Initiative, these 111 locations in unserved and underserved communities in Ontario will have an opportunity to improve their high-speed internet connectivity. This investment in high-speed internet by the Province of Ontario will provide greater community access to education and vital services, while creating economic opportunity and contributing to economic growth.
“Our government understands how important it is for people to be connected and be able to take part in today’s digital economy,” said Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. “This exciting initiative to increase broadband capabilities at more than 100 public libraries will provide Ontarians in unserved and underserved communities across the province with better access to digital resources and services – including digital collections, online skills training and career development. We thank the Ontario Library Service for leading this important project.”
“Our government is working tirelessly to ensure that every region in Ontario has access to high-speed internet services by the end of 2025,” said Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure. “Through the Connecting Public Libraries Initiative, more local libraries will be able to provide reliable high-speed internet access in communities across Ontario. This will make it easier for Ontarians to access the support and critical services they need to learn, work and connect with loved ones.”
Funding will support the Connecting Public Libraries initiative by covering the increased connectivity costs resulting from high-speed internet upgrades. Offsetting the increased operational costs will encourage more libraries to participate in the initiative and accept the high-speed internet upgrades. Increased high-speed internet access at libraries in unserved and underserved communities supports numerous community benefits, including online education, skills development and job searches, e-health support and access to online government services, access to online businesses and entrepreneurial activities.
“This investment has a tremendous impact on these 111 library locations and the crucial work they do in bridging the digital divide,” said Mellissa D’Onofrio-Jones CEO for Ontario Library Service. “Providing reliable and effective internet in these unserved and underserved communities will enable equitable participation in online opportunities such as education and work in a welcoming environment where citizens will also find public library staff ready, willing and able to provide digital skills and literacy support should it be required.”
The 111 eligible locations will be contacted directly in the coming weeks by the OLS with more details. We look forward to working with these rural, remote, and First Nations communities to facilitate more reliable internet connectivity that will strengthen their ability to best serve their unique communities.