Ontario Helping Public Libraries Provide Public Internet Access

Investment helps small, rural and First Nation communities access digital resources and in-demand services

Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport (image source: X / @NeilLumsdenMPP)

GRAVENHURST — The Ontario government is investing up to $582,000 in Ontario’s public libraries this year through the Internet Connectivity Grant program to provide Ontarians with reliable access to digital resources and in-demand services at their local public library.

“Public libraries are a critical part of the infrastructure that makes our communities thrive,” said Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “This increased investment in public libraries will ensure people across the province have reliable access to the digital resources and in-demand services that they require to learn, grow and thrive.”

Today’s funding announcement will increase the support provided to Ontario’s public libraries last year by $122,000, enabling up to 155 eligible public libraries that serve communities of 20,000 or less – in particular, those in small, rural and First Nation communities – to be fully reimbursed for the costs of providing publicly accessible internet access.

Ontarians rely on their local public library to access online tutoring and homework assistance, job training resources, learn or improve their language skills, and build and maintain social connections.

“This initiative reflects our government’s commitment to small town and rural Ontario. We’re ensuring that residents of communities like Gravenhurst and those throughout Parry Sound-Muskoka have access to the same level services as residents of big cities,” said Graydon Smith, MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka. “Expanding access to high-quality internet connectivity enhances local quality of life for people throughout our riding. I’m proud to be a part of a government that is prioritizing investing in communities like Gravenhurst.”

Since 2018, the Internet Connectivity Grant program has provided the province’s public libraries with more than $3 million to ensure the communities they serve have reliable access to the internet.

“Access to reliable, high-speed internet is more critical than ever in an increasingly digital world and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michelle Arbuckle, Executive Director, Ontario Library Association. “With more services, resources and businesses shifting to virtual platforms, the Ontario government’s enhanced investment in the Internet Connectivity program will support public libraries by helping to make high-speed internet and digital resources accessible for all Ontarians.”

“High-speed internet is critical for public libraries to offer the residents and communities they serve with access to digital resources and learning tools, subscription-based databases, and government services,” said Dina Stevens, Executive Director, Federation of Ontario Public Libraries. “Public libraries also provide reliable internet access to Ontarians of all ages who cannot otherwise access or afford it. The enhanced internet connectivity funding from the Ontario government will ensure public libraries serving hundreds of thousands of Ontarians in smaller communities will be able to continue providing access to fast, reliable internet services.”

Quick Facts

  • In 2023-24, the ministry committed to maintaining the $27 million dollars in annual funding to the public library sector, and to work with Ontario’s libraries to ensure services are delivered in the most efficient and effective ways possible.
  • The Ontario government provided $4.85 million in 2020-21 through the Connecting Public Libraries initiative to upgrade broadband at approximately 55 library branches in unserved and underserved communities across the province. To date, 20 sites have received broadband upgrades.

SOURCE Province of Ontario

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