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Bell accelerating rural Internet rollout in response to COVID-19

  • Rolling out broadband Wireless Home Internet service to approximately 137,000 more homes than anticipated by the end of April

  • Keeping Canada connected: Bell team stays ahead of increasing usage by consumers, businesses, governments and first responders with investment in connections and capacity across our networks

MONTRÉAL, April 23, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ - Bell today announced that it has accelerated the rollout of its new Wireless Home Internet (WHI) service in rural Canada as part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis, and is on track to reach 137,000 more homes than originally planned by the end of this month.

"Bell's Wireless Home Internet program is dedicated to bringing full broadband Internet speeds to rural communities and other traditionally underserved locations. And with WHI usage growing 40% over the last month, the COVID-19 crisis has clearly underscored the value of the service to customers in smaller communities," said Mirko Bibic , President and CEO of BCE Inc. and Bell Canada . "With the scale of our operations and the depth of our team, Bell is a company uniquely positioned to lead the way in delivering high-speed Internet access to rural Canada. Our accelerated rollout to 137,000 additional rural households in 180 individual communities this month is both an immediate response to COVID-19 and part of our work to connect even more rural Canadians for generations to come."

"Our government is proud of organizations across the country that are stepping up to help respond in these unprecedented times and we are thankful to Bell Canada for this initiative," said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "We know that high-speed Internet access is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity for all Canadians. Our government is working hard, with the private sector, provinces, communities and Indigenous organizations, to make sure that rural Canadians have access to high speed Internet, no matter where they live."

"The Bell team understands our networks are critical for other frontline services to function during this crisis. Hospitals, financial institutions, transportation and delivery, grocery stores and other essential providers are counting on us to keep them connected and able to keep on serving Canadians," said Stephen Howe , Bell's Chief Technology Officer. "Bell's industry-leading capital investments of approximately $4 billion each year in network expansion and enhancement meant Bell was in a very solid position to meet the challenge of COVID-19. We continue to work around the clock to add network capacity to meet the unprecedented demands of the crisis and ensure those on the front lines have the reliable communications support they need."

Bell broadband for rural Canada
Delivering Internet speeds of up to 25 Megabits per second now with the potential for even faster connections in future, Bell's unique Wireless Home Internet service is specifically designed to bring broadband access to homes in rural and other hard-to-reach locations. Bell ultimately plans to cover approximately 1 million homes in Atlantic Canada , Québec, Ontario and Manitoba with WHI service.

The accelerated buildout announced today will bring new or enhanced broadband access to approximately 180 communities in Québec and Ontario , including agricultural regions, smaller towns and other rural locations.

"Now more than ever, we need to stay connected," said the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development. "I welcome Bell's leadership and the support it will offer Canadians in these challenging times. We will get through these trying times by taking care of our neighbours and staying together, apart. This announcement helps more Canadians do that."

"Bell's announcement is welcome news for rural Ontarians, especially given COVID-19 and the critical need for broadband so people can work, learn, and access services," said Allan Thompson , Chair of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association ( ROMA ). " ROMA and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario have been calling for solutions and we welcome this step in seeing more rural Ontarians connected."

"Access to high-speed Internet services is of paramount importance to our communities and this is especially true during the COVID-19 crisis," said Gino Moretti , Mayor of Saint-Anicet . "Innovative technologies like the one Bell is offering help keep our citizens healthy, informed and entertained and contribute to the growth of our communities. Saint-Anicet is pleased to be one of the communities that can take advantage of these services, and we hope that the deployment will be even more extensive to keep as many people connected as possible, now and in the future."

"The improved Internet access with Bell's Wireless Home Internet has been a life changing experience for those of us in rural communities," said J. Murray Jones , Mayor of the Township of Douro -Dummer. "In my little hamlet of Warsaw , it has meant being placed on a level playing field with the rest of the world so we are very pleased that even more residents will be able to enjoy this level of service from Bell."

"Improving access to high speed Internet services for our residents and businesses continues to be one of our top priorities in Hastings County and Bell's Wireless Home Internet service is a big part of achieving this," said Rick Phillips , Reeve of Tyendinaga Township and Warden of Hastings County. "By expanding Wireless Home Internet in Hastings County, Bell is helping ensure our community can connect to the world and vastly improve our opportunities to grow and prosper. Broadband is key to our future."

Please visit Bell.ca/FastInternet to see the list of approximately 180 communities that will be covered with new or expanded Wireless Home Internet service by the end of this month and to check availability for your location.

Bell keeping Canada connected
The 40% increase in Bell Home Wireless Internet usage is one example of the unprecedented volume increases across Bell's wireless, wireline and broadcast networks due to COVID-19. Working closely with Canadian businesses, government and healthcare providers to address the surging demand for critical communications services, Bell has maintained overall network reliability of 99.99+% throughout the crisis.

Usage patterns on Bell's networks directly reflect many of the general impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on Canadians. With millions more people working remotely from home, Bell Internet data volumes have increased as much as 60% during the day and 20% in the evening. Landline and wireless voice traffic has surged by up to 200% at peak times while conference calling is up 250%, alongside increased demand for 1-800 services to support public health and other government information lines.

The increased Internet traffic, as well as a 40% increase in Bell TV volumes and a 75% jump in usage of Bell Media's Crave video streaming service, also reflects the number of families entertaining themselves at home and staying informed, including record increases in viewership of Bell Media news channels and other information services.

Supporting our customers
Bell is ready to support customers facing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 situation while also waiving certain usage charges and providing free access to a wide range of news, family and entertainment channels on Bell TV:

  • To help Canadians working from home or in isolation we are waiving overage fees for residential Internet customers across our Bell brands until June 30 .

  • For our wireless customers travelling abroad, Roam Better and pay per use roaming charges will be waived until April 30 .

  • Consumer and small business customers in rural and remote locations using Turbo Hubs, Turbo Sticks and MiFi devices are receiving an extra 10GB of data and a $10 credit.

  • Bell Media's TV and radio news operations across the country continue to deliver the latest updates on the COVID-19 situation to Canadians from a local, regional and national perspective. Bell TV has made CTV News Channel, CP24 as well as other Canadian news services available as free previews for Bell Fibe TV, Alt TV and Bell Satellite TV customers. CTV News and CP24 are also available live at their web sites and on their apps.

  • All Bell TV services are offering free previews of a wide range of family, educational, lifestyle and entertainment channels.

  • While we have closed most retail locations, select Bell stores remain open across the country to provide essential services to customers. These stores and their operating hours can be found on our store locator.

  • As service volumes increase, Bell encourages customers to take advantage of MyBell, the easy-to-use self-serve option available online or as a mobile app that enables you to manage most of your Bell services. Customers can also stay informed by visiting Bell's dedicated web page at Bell.ca/COVID-19-Update.

About Bell
Canada's largest communications company with more than 22 million consumer and business connections, Bell provides advanced broadband wireless, TV, Internet and business communication services throughout the country. Bell Media is Canada's premier multimedia company with leading assets in television, radio, out of home and digital media. Founded in Montréal in 1880, Bell is wholly owned by BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE: BCE). To learn more, please visit Bell.ca or BCE.ca.

The Bell Let's Talk initiative promotes Canadian mental health with national awareness and anti-stigma campaigns like Bell Let's Talk Day and significant Bell funding of community care and access, research and workplace leadership initiatives throughout the country. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

Media inquiries:

Caroline Audet
514-391-9794
caroline.audet@bell.ca
@Bell_News

Investor inquiries:

Thane Fotopoulos
514-870-4619
thane.fotopoulos@bell.ca

SOURCE Bell Canada

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View original content: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/April2020/23/c0785.html