The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today declared that broadband access Internet service is now considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians.
The CRTC is also setting new speed targets and creating a new fund that will invest up to $750 million over and above existing government programs.
“Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, CRTC Chairman and CEO. “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.”
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.
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.
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 today, 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, according to a CRTC news release.
Also, all wireless service providers will have to offer and publicize, no later than six months from today, mobile service packages that meet the needs of Canadians with disabilities.
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. 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.
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 per cent 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 today (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.
“The availability of broadband Internet, however, is an issue that can’t be solved by the CRTC alone,” said Blais. “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.”