WINNIPEG -- The province announced that it will be helping those in rural and northern communities to make broadband services available.

Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton made the announcement on Friday.

Wharton said it plans to use a fibre-optic network that has already been built.

"This is going to help enhance existing service in cellular and broadband. This is going to bring broadband and cellular to communities that haven't had it and enhance," said Wharton.

The province said the fibre-optic cable was in place through Manitoba Hydro to create communication with northern hydroelectric facilities, but it went unused.

Wharton said this will not cost the province anything and the government will put a province-wide request for proposal (RFP) to have a company use the network.

He added that the province has seen the need for this to be used because of COVID-19.

"But we know that now more folks are learning from home, they are also working from home and we understand and we always know that there was an issue with connectivity. So COVID has again given us the opportunity to say 'look we need to move forward with this'," said Wharton.

Once the RFP process is done, Wharton said that will help determine which communities the initiative will assist.

For those who are wondering how long it could be before they have access to this, Wharton said during the announcement the RFP will go out in the fall and he doesn't know the exact timeline but he expects it will take a couple of months.

Wharton said this is a Manitoba-owned asset and it will continue to be a Manitoba asset once the decision on the RFP is made.