CRTC broadband decision: Big win for rural and northern communities

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CRTC broadband decision: Big win for rural and northern communities (21/12/2016)

FCM President Clark Somerville issued the following statement in response to today’s decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in the Review of Basic Telecommunications Services.

Broadband is now fundamental to modern life and commerce. The CRTC recognized this today in its Decision adopting a “universal service objective” mandating universal access to reliable broadband — in communities of all sizes — through both fixed and mobile wireless networks.

The CRTC launched its sweeping review of basic telecommunications services in April 2015. FCM’s final submission to that process raised the alarm over the “broadband gap” that constrains so many northern and rural communities. Some struggle with bandwidth and network capacity that cannot meet user demands. Others have no broadband coverage at all.

For these communities, today’s decision can be transformative. Expanding broadband access will improve local quality of life, help stem youth out-migration and support economic growth — by boosting productivity, supporting innovation and improving market access. The CRTC is responding to FCM’s call by adopting a universal speed target of 50 mbps for downloads and 10 mbps for uploads, backed by a new long-term funding mechanism.

This decision comes less than a week after the federal government launched its Connect to Innovate program. First announced in Budget 2016, this five-year $500-million commitment will accelerate broadband upgrades in high-cost rural areas. This plan responds to many of FCM’s recommendations and we will keep working with our federal partners to confirm its details.

Even with this new federal support, however, market forces alone will not close the broadband gap for many remote and northern communities. FCM will be examining the CRTC’s new funding mechanism to ensure it complements Connect to Innnovate funding to best support the communities that need it most. The next step will be to develop a comprehensive, long-term plan and timeline to make universal broadband access a reality for Canadians. FCM is eager to work with all orders of government to make that happen.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is the national voice of municipal government, with 2,000 members representing 90 per cent of the Canadian population.