CRTC establishes fund to attain new high-speed Internet targets
December 23, 2016
Posted by: Jacqueline O'Hara
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) declared on December 21 that broadband access Internet service is now considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians. The CRTC is also setting ambitious new speed targets and creating a new fund that will invest up to $750 million over and above existing government programs.
Broadband and mobile services
Further to its legislative mandate, the CRTC has set the following targets for the basic telecommunications services that Canadians need to participate in the digital economy:
- speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download/10 Mbps upload for fixed broadband Internet access services.
- an unlimited data option for fixed broadband access services.
- the latest mobile wireless technology available not only in homes and businesses, but also along major Canadian roads.
New funding for broadband projects
The CRTC is establishing a fund to support projects in areas that do not meet these targets. Applicants will be able to submit funding proposals in order to build or upgrade infrastructure for fixed and mobile broadband Internet access services. The fund will:
- make available up to $750 million over the first five years;
- be complementary to existing and future private investment and public funding;
- focus on underserved areas; and
- be managed at arm's length by a third party.
Accessibility and tools for consumers
The CRTC wants Canadians to have access to the tools and services they need to empower themselves regarding fixed Internet access services. No later than six months from December 21, service providers should ensure that contracts are written in clear and plain language, and should make available online tools so consumers can easily manage their data usage.
Also, all wireless service providers will have to offer and publicize, no later than six months from December 21, mobile service packages that meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities.
The path forward for Canada's digital economy
During its consultations with Canadians, the CRTC also identified further gaps regarding the adoption of broadband Internet services in Canada that are outside its core mandate. On December 21, the CRTC is submitting a report to the Innovation Agenda, as encouraged by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, on the availability and adoption of broadband Internet services in Canada. This report includes information on access gaps resulting from infrastructure, affordability and digital literacy issues, as well as barriers to connectivity in Indigenous communities.
The decision issued on December 21 complements the Government of Canada's Innovation Agenda. Looking ahead, the CRTC will contribute in ways appropriate to its mandate. However, all stakeholders have a role to play to ensure that broadband Internet service is universally available and barriers to adoption are removed.
- Broadband Internet access services are necessary to the quality of life for Canadians and empowers them as citizens, creators and consumers.
- While most are well-served, many Canadians, particularly those in rural and remote communities, do not have access to broadband Internet access services that are comparable to those offered to the vast majority of Canadians in terms of speed, capacity, quality and price.
- Broadband Internet services would allow more Canadian entrepreneurs to easily access crucial information relating to international markets and create more business opportunities across Canada.
- In 2015, 82% of Canadians had access to speeds of 50 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload for fixed broadband services.
- The CRTC is shifting its regulatory focus from wireline voice to broadband services.
- Currently there is a subsidy for residential local voice services in rural and remote areas that amounted to approximately $100 million in 2016.
- The current local voice subsidy will now be transitioned to the new funding mechanism announced on December 21 (for projects that meet the new targets).
- Further to a broad consultation, more than 50,000 Canadians provided their views on the telecommunications services they need to participate in the digital economy.
"Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive. Canadians who participated during our process told us that no matter where they live or work in our vast country whether in a small town in northern Yukon, a rural area of eastern Quebec or in downtown Calgary everyone needs access to high-quality fixed Internet and mobile services. We are doing our part to bring broadband services to rural and remote communities.
The availability of broadband Internet, however, 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.
All levels of government must address gaps in digital literacy. Affordability concerns are best addressed by the emergence of a dynamic market place where service providers compete on price for telecommunication services, in conjunction with social responsibility programs of telecommunications carriers and different levels of government.
High quality and reliable digital connectivity is essential for the quality of life of Canadians and Canada's economic prosperity."
- Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO, CRTC
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