The Working Waterfront

Canada’s Pelee Island gets $20 million internet upgrade

Cable will run some 46 miles on Lake Erie bottom

Dave Battagello
Posted 2021-10-21
Last Modified 2021-10-21

What is believed to be the longest freshwater fiber link in Canada —almost 75 kilometers (46 miles) in length—will soon be installed to create an upgraded broadband internet connection for every resident and business on Lake Erie’s Pelee Island.

The federal and provincial governments will jointly fund the $20 million project. Pelee Island is the largest island on Lake Erie and is the southernmost populated land mass in Canada.

“This announcement is epic,” said Dave Dawson, the island’s deputy mayor. “This project has been several years in the making and has been a total team effort. Our dream will now be reality.”

Dawson asserted that the upgrade “will impact Pelee’s sustainability, promote population growth, and allow residents access to basic (online) services in health care, education, and reliable 911 service.”

Construction to connect Pelee Island will begin almost immediately and is expected to be complete by July 2023. Several neighboring mainland communities will also be connected through the project.

The investment—which features state-of-the-art submarine fiber cable secured to the bed of Lake Erie—is part of the ongoing federal-provincial effort to support large scale, fiber-based projects that will provide high-speed internet access to all corners of the province by 2025.

“Being a remote island in the middle of Lake Erie can present a wonderful escape, but it also presents significant challenges for residents and visitors alike,” said Irek Kusmierczyk, the island’s representative to Parliament. “The lack of fast and reliable internet connectivity is one of those challenges.”

The island’s 300 permanent residents and up to 20,000 seasonal residents have not been able to fully participate in the digital world, he said. “This investment will finally provide residents and visitors with the high-speed, reliable broadband internet access they need.”

Essex County Warden Gary McNamara said the pandemic highlighted the need for broadband.

“It has really shown us how vulnerable small towns and remote areas like Pelee Island struggle—especially with home learning, home businesses or working from home,” he said. “Every home should be connected. This is basically bringing the island to the mainland which I think is a very important step.”

This story first appeared in the Windsor Star of Ontario, Canada, and is reprinted with permission.