Australia’s Nine strikes a Google media deal as licencing laws approach – media

Publisher and broadcaster Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd has agreed on a content licencing deal with Google, one of its newspapers reported on Wednesday, the second large Australian media outlet to strike a deal with the internet giant. The Alphabet Inc owned company agreed to pay Nine more than A$30 million a year for its content, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, citing "industry sources". A Google spokesman also declined to comment. Read More...

Local Journalism Initiative

Hastings County CAO Pine updates council on EORN project

At the Carlow Mayo Township council meeting on Feb. 9, Hastings County Warden Rick Phillips and CAO Jim Pine made a presentation to the council, giving an update on the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, a project being worked on by EORN, the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, the federal and provincial governments and the private sector, to provide expansive cellular service and internet service to all communities in eastern Ontario by 2025/2026. Mayor Bonnie Adams introduced Phillips and Pine, and welcomed them to the meeting. Phillips gave a few introductory remarks and thanked county and municipal staff for their efforts during this pandemic. “I’m impressed every day the way our people find new ways to deliver services in a safe and effective way,” he says. Phillips then turned the presentation over to Pine, who began by providing a brief look at the services that Hastings County’s nearly 900 full time and part time staff provide to its 135,000 to 140,000 residents. He then started to provide council with an update on the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, which Pine described as getting people connected to the internet with enough speed and capacity that they can do what they need to do on the internet. He says it’s really about putting the infrastructure in place so they can connect to everyone’s home, business, school or institution. Pine said that Phillips has been an active member of the EORN board of directors and has been a vocal proponent for better cell service and internet service for Hastings County and all of eastern Ontario. He described eastern Ontario, an area the size of Nova Scotia, with its 1.2 million residents, six First Nations communities, 13 counties, 10 separated cities and towns and 50,000 square kilometres. “It’s a big geographic area that we’re trying to bring better connectivity to. It’s been a long effort and we’re now into our 11th year of project work to improve, but we know there’s still much to be done,” he says. According to Pine, EORN is now in the middle of its second project, to improve cell service in the area. The first project, begun in 2010, was to bring 10 mb of speed and connectivity to as much of the region as possible. He said that up until EORN there hadn’t been any federally or provincially coordinated plan to expand internet infrastructure in the region. So, the wardens of the area, the EOWC, came together and took the initiative. This first project cost $175 million. The federal and provincial governments each contributed $55 million, the EOWC put in $10 million and the private sector contributed $65 million. He says that a fibre backhaul network was put around the region with their partners Bell Aliant and Bell Canada, with an increased number of off ramps or points of presence. This network is serving them well with the second phase of the project, the cell service project, according to Pine. Although it was a big project, he says it came in on time and on budget and spurred additional development. “What we realized as we got going was that just when you start something there’s more to be done. That led us into the second project,” he says. That second project was the cell service project, which covered the same general area in eastern Ontario as the first project. Pine says that the idea is to close the gaps in coverage that exist today and that they have mapped them all out and have gone through a request for proposal services. Last fall, the EORN board of directors approved the identification of a preferred proponent, and are negotiating a commercial contract with them. “If that goes well, there should be an announcement by the federal and provincial governments in the near future, probably in March at some point,” he says. In terms of cost, this second phase will cost $213 million, with the federal and provincial governments putting in $71 million each, the EOWC and EOMC putting in $10 million and the private sector contributing in excess of $67 million. “There are a lot of existing cell towers around eastern Ontario built at the 3G level, some of them have been improved to 4G. Each tower has a different service level based on the equipment they have and how they might be connected to the fibre backhaul network. We intend to fill all those gaps with 4G LTE towers that expand the basic coverage area, expand the standard definition level of service and expand the high-definition level of service,” he says, “We want to make sure you can stay connected as you’re driving around eastern Ontario, no matter where you are.” Pine says the second project has three basic goals; to provide 99 per cent basic cell coverage, to provide 95 per cent standard definition (email, social media, web browsing) coverage, and to expand the high-definition video capacity (livestream video calls). He says all work is scheduled to be completed by 2025 or 2026 and that hundreds of new cell towers will be put in around the region while hundreds more will be upgraded. “I’ll be able to show you, once the company in announced, better details about where we expect these towers to go in your community, to raise the coverage and capacity in North Hastings. It’s going to be very helpful, in my opinion,” he says. The third project is the Gigabit project, potentially to bring 1,000 Megabit service to the area at a cost of $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion. They also costed a less expensive plan to bring 50/10 Megabit internet speed, the CRTC standard, at $500 million to $700 million. Pine explained that they discussed what made the most sense in the long run, and decided on the Gigabit project. Fibre optic cable using light is the gold standard of broadband connectivity, according to Pine. He also said they may be able to use existing pole infrastructure to string this cable. “As the chair of the EORN board [J. Murray Jones, Warden of Peterborough County and Mayor of the Township of Douro-Dummer] said, this is something you could fix now and fix it for good. If we could get a fibre optic cable to the residents and businesses that need it, we would have solved the broadband problem for a long time,” he says. Pine doesn’t think that eastern Ontario should be left behind and that’s why EORN and the EOWC continue to push for better broadband though the Gig Project. “If the federal and provincial governments cannot support that $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion, then they should at least support us getting the minimum CRTC standard of 50/10 Megabit across the region. Broadband is really a money problem. It takes money to build the infrastructure and you can’t get away from it,” he says. EORN has had two economic studies done, according to Pine, that if they do the Gigabit project, it will forever change the economics for the region. They project up to 16,000 new jobs, and that the federal and provincial governments will get their investment back in four years due to the increased revenues generated through the increased economic activity. “It really is the way to boost the economy but you have to spend it now to make it going forward. We have a compelling case to make for the Gigabit project and Warden Phillips is the front line for EORN, and we hope at the end of the day we will be successful,” he says. Pine said that COVID-19 really highlighted the disparities in connectivity within the region, and that they welcomed any support that the council could give. “It is the local voices that will drive this forward and it will make people in Ottawa and Toronto stand up and listen if we work together,” he says. According to Pine, in an email after the presentation, they haven’t received either provincial or federal agreement yet for the Gigabit project. “Our initial ask, based on participation as well by the Canada Infrastructure Bank, was for $200 million from each level of government. EORN, along with the EOWC and the EOMC continue to push both for their support and their contributions. Projects like this one take time to get the necessary commitments but we are working hard to secure them,” he says. Adams thanked him for his presentation and said it was very informative. She asked if he was looking for a letter from the township for support, or something else. He replied that a letter would be great. He also asked if they could speak with their federal and provincial members of parliament and express their support to them as well. Councillor Dan Hughey had a question about how the township could help out with this project financially. Pine replied that they already do so with their levy to the county, and that that money goes toward costs not covered by the federal and provincial money, like legal costs. Adams asked Pine if the “black holes” (gaps in internet and cell service) like Carlow Mayo were a priority. He said that they were. “It will be filling those gaps at the end of the project. You’ll have coverage, it’ll be ubiquitous. We know where those holes are and we’ve mapped it out. And that’s the whole idea is to fix those holes,” he says. After asking if there were any other questions and hearing none, Adams thanked Pine and Phillips for attending the council meeting and for the presentation. She said they have all come a long way since 2010 with their internet but there’s still a way to go. “I’d like to thank you for all the work you’ve done and for recognizing that rural Ontario needs to have this service and connectivity,” she says. “I know you’ve done a lot of work on this so thank you so much for leading and spearheading this project.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times

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