[On average, Canadians pay about twice as much for Internet access and
service as customers in the U.S., in an oligopoly market where 3 main
players completely dominate the landscape. Naming Internet as a basic
service - like telephone service - could be a financial blow to these
profiteering companies as well as an acknowledgement of reality. The
trick to democratizing the Internet in Canada is to find ways to let
other players access the new funding for infrastructure roll-out, or
declaring the publicly-funded build-out to be taxpayer - not telecom -
CRTC declares broadband internet a basic service
Mandy Kovacs - December 22, 2016
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has
declared broadband internet a basic telecommunications service for all
regions across Canada, and set new speed targets for internet and mobile
services available to Canadians.
In a decision announced on Wednesday, CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said
that current Canadian access and basic speeds “don’t cut it anymore” in
the “data-hungry digital world” that we live in today. This verdict is
quite a departure from the commission’s previous mandate, which focused
on obtaining universal access for voice services like landline telephones.
“We are establishing as a universal service objective that Canadians –
in rural and remote areas as well as in urban centres – should have
access to voice services and broadband Internet access services on fixed
and mobile wireless networks,” he said during his press conference.
Along with the decision, the CRTC has set new targets for carriers both
fixed broadband services and mobile broadband services. For fixed
Internet, the goal is a minimum speed of 50 megabits per second and 10
megabits per second for uploads – a “tenfold increase” from previous
targets of 5 Mbps download/ 1Mbps upload from 2011. Currently, 82 per
cent of Canadians already have access to 50/10 Mbps speeds from carriers
in their communities, according to CRTC data. It wants that coverage
increased to 90 per cent by 2021 and to 100 per cent within 10 to 15 years.
As for mobile services, the CRTC stressed improved access to mobile
wireless technology “not only in homes and businesses, but also along
major Canadian transportation corridors.”
Blais called on the country’s telecommunication providers to begin
working towards improving internet access and speeds, particularly in
“The availability of broadband Internet … is an issue that can’t be
solved by the CRTC alone. All players in the Canadian communications
landscape will need to do their part to ensure Canadians have access to
the services they need to participate in the digital economy,” he said,
adding that he would also like to see all levels of the government
address the gaps in digital literacy, as well as affordability of
At his press conference, Blais recognized that these increased speed
targets were lofty expectations and would not be easy to obtain.
“The future of our economy, our prosperity and our society – indeed the
future of every citizen – requires us to set ambitious goals, and to get
on with connecting all Canadians for the 21st century,” he conceded.
“Today’s decision signals a shift in our regulations for basic services
from voice-related issues to broadband-related issues.”
Telecommunications expert Iain Grant, managing director of the Seaboard
Group telecom consultancy, agreed.
“It seems like an ambitious plan,” said Grant. “Jean Pierre Blais
certainly is a man of the current century. I think this is a good move.
A bold decision that will no doubt have some service providers gnashing
their teeth in frustration about the impossibility of it all.”
However, most of the major internet service providers support the
decision, with David Watt, senior vice president of regulatory at
Rogers, saying the company already offers speeds 20 times faster than
the new targets and have unlimited [data] plans everywhere the company
offers internet services.
“High-speed internet is a must for Canadians to connect with their
friends, families and communities and participate in the digital
economy. While there are still many details to be worked out, we are
encouraged by this reasonable plan to help increase access to Canadians
in hard to reach areas of our country,” he said in a statement to IT
Telus called the decision “important and complex”, but said it does
share the CRTC’s view “that in order for Canadians to participate in the
digital economy, they need access to high quality broadband.”
“This is why we have been investing billions of dollars year-after-year
to increase both wireline and wireless Internet capacity in rural and
urban communities across Canada, and recently introduced Internet for
Good in B.C. and AB to ensure lower-income families have inexpensive
access,” the company said.
The company said it has invested approximately $2.85 billion in new
infrastructure this year alone, and will continue to invest so that by
the end of 2019, it will have devoted about $46 billion to new
infrastructure since 2000.
The CRTC will set up an investment fund of more than $750 million in the
next five years (and on top of existing government programs) to support
projects in areas that do not meet the new speed targets.
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