Stephane Rolland, The Canadian Press
Legault’s government will use the services of Tesla founder Elon Musk to fulfill its promise to provide high-speed internet access in underserved areas before the end of her term. Just over 10,000 remote homes will be connected by the US company’s service.
Starlink’s low-orbit satellite, operated by SpaceX, was the best technology solution to connect hard-to-reach homes by fiber-optic, which is defending the Prime Minister’s parliamentary assistant, high-speed Internet component, Jill Belanger, during a press conference in Sherbrooke Monday. He explained that due to its geographical remoteness, it is difficult to connect some homes to the fiber optic network.
“The only solution to connect these orphaned families is the SpaceX solution. I, not making any contact with Elon Musk, connect to the technological solution, which is the most advanced.
If optical fibers are prioritized when possible, homes that will be connected to high-speed internet via satellite will have good connectivity, Mr. Belanger asserts. Starlink will be able to offer a download speed of 100 megabits (Mbit/s) while a high-speed connection of 50 Mbit/s is considered. “People often confuse the old high-orbit satellite with the new low-orbit satellite. There will be no problem in terms of internet quality.”
So Quebec is giving $50 million in funding to enable the deployment of the Starlink satellite broadcasting service. The government hopes to connect 10,200 homes south of the 57th parallel by September 30, 2022. A $9.5 million aid will also be given to targeted families to cover the full cost of acquiring reception equipment.
The award of the contract to an American company raises questions, believes the leader of the official opposition, Dominic Engled, who specified at a press conference that she did not have the opportunity to learn all the details of the agreement. “I would have preferred that we deal with the people who are here in Quebec. To understand the need to deal with this company when we have them here in Quebec, that is the first question I would ask the government.
Assistant Secretary-General of the Executive Council of Quebec, Stéphane Le Pouignec, responded that local companies could have been prioritized when possible. “We have given everything we can to Quebec and Canadian companies. The big players, but also the smaller players.
Race before the election
Legault’s government also expects that it will achieve its goal of providing high-speed internet access to 250,000 households by the end of September, before the end of its mandate. This number includes 10,000 families that will be connected by Starlink
These households must have access to a connection of at least 50 Mbit/s download and 10 Mbit/s upload, with unlimited data transfer capacity.
Mr. Bellanger would have liked to launch the agreement with Starlink a little earlier, but the conflict in Ukraine forced him to delay his plans by a few months, he says. The American company left the capacity to the Ukrainian government, which needed the satellites to defend itself against the Russian invasion. I think it was a good move on our part to postpone for a few months.
Also announced on Monday was the unveiling of an interactive map where we can monitor the spread of high-speed internet across Quebec. The map will track the connection status of an address, municipality, or region.
Quebec has allocated $1.3 billion to speed up connecting remote areas.
At a press briefing, Mr. Le Buonnec specified that about $1.1 billion had been committed, including Monday’s announcement. The federal government contributed about $470 million to this funding, bringing Quebec’s share to about $610 million.