In its quest to connect all of Quebec to high-speed internet before the October election, the Legault government will subsidize a company owned by American billionaire Elon Musk to the tune of $89 million to connect approximately 15,000 households.
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These “orphan” households – connecting them to optical fiber would be too expensive for now – will be able to benefit from a connection of 100 megabits (Mbit / s) without download limits thanks to the low orbit satellites of Starlink, operated by SpaceX , which belongs to the boss of Tesla.
“It’s the only company that does the job properly. That amounts to roughly $5,000 per household,” explains Gilles Bélanger, the Prime Minister’s parliamentary assistant, high-speed internet component, in an interview.
The subsidy was granted on May 4 by decree and without a call for tenders.
The first 50 million are allocated to the connection of 10,000 households already identified as orphans. Quebecers thus connected will not have to pay for the starter kit and the satellite saucer, which alone is worth more than $650.
Another thirty million dollars will be used to pay for an “option” of 5,000 additional households.
“It is certain that we will use the option,” admits the MP for Orford.
Nine million dollars are also planned so that new Quebec customers of Starlink pay a maximum of approximately $90 per month. A monthly plan at Starlink costs over $120 before taxes.
Already $1.3 billion spent
The $89 million envelope is valid for three years, but will be spent “by the end of the year”. Quebec will have to renegotiate with Starlink or a competitor in 2025.
The 15,000 homes that will be connected to the eccentric Musk’s satellites are in addition to the 88,000 that Quebec boasts of having connected to high speed since March 2021.
On that date, Quebec still had 248,000 unconnected households, whereas today it is 160,000, says Mr. Bélanger.
The current rate of connections is 30,000 per month, he says.
This high-speed operation has already cost taxpayers $1.3 billion so far, about a third of which comes from Ottawa.
The parliamentary assistant to the Prime Minister, however, ensures that the game is worth the candle.
According to a study commissioned from KPMG, which has still not been made public, Quebec has already gained $5 billion in productivity per year thanks to this increased connectivity.
“It helps businesses, but also immigration in the region, average salaries in the region are increasing,” pleads Mr. Bélanger, who also speaks of “a few hundred million dollars” in tax revenue thanks to these “better” jobs rendered possible by the presence of high speed.
In Quebec, an internet connection is considered high speed when it exceeds 50 Mbit/s.
THE PACT BETWEEN QUEBEC CITY AND ELON MUSK’S COMPANY FOR HIGH-SPEED INTERNET
$89 million over 3 years
$50 million to connect 10,000 homes
$30 million to connect 5,000 additional households
$9 million to offer rates at around $90 per month for 3 years