CRTC establishing fund for remote & rural communities to develop broadband

CRTC press release from http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1172599

CRTC establishes fund to attain new high-speed Internet targets

Wants Canadians to have access to an unlimited data plan option and speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload

December 21, 2016 – Ottawa-Gatineau – Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

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 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 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.

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.

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. Today, 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 today 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.

Quick Facts

  • 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 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.

Quote

“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

Additional links

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Contacts

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General Inquiries
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Toll-free: 1 (877) 249-CRTC (2782)
TTY: (819) 994-0423
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CRTC Speaking notes from http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1172589

Jean-Pierre Blais at the Basic Telecommunications Services Press Conference

Good afternoon and welcome.

Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting here today on the traditional territory of the First Nations. I would like to thank the Algonquin people and pay respect to their elders.

Thank you for being here today as the CRTC unveils a very important decision for Canada’s future in a digital world. This decision will have a generational impact.

During the last year and a half, Canadians from across the country told us that both fixed and mobile broadband is crucial for both their personal and professional lives. We heard from many Canadians, businesses and governments in rural and remote communities who don’t have access to the telecommunications services they need to do their online banking, use eHealth services, conduct business, access emergency services, further their education, access online government services or buy goods that are not available in their region.

We heard from Canadians that a download speed of 5 megabits per second and an upload speed of 1 megabit per second doesn’t cut it anymore. We heard that data caps often impede their capabilities in a data-hungry digital world. We heard that they need access to mobile wireless services at home and on the road.

We listened to Canadians and we are taking action. This is what Parliament mandated us to do.

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. This is quite a departure from our previous objective, which focussed primarily on voice services.

The CRTC is setting the following targets for these services pursuant to sub-section 46.5(1) of the Telecommunications Act:

  • For fixed broadband services, access to an unlimited data option as well as minimum speeds of 50 megabits per second for download and 10 megabits per second for upload. This is a tenfold increase to our previous target set in 2011. It is also in line with the targets of our major trading partners and our international competitors in the digital economy.
  • For mobile broadband services, access to the latest mobile wireless technology not only in homes and businesses, but also along major Canadian transportation corridors.

These goals are ambitious.

They will not be easy to achieve and they will cost money.

But we have no choice.

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. Today’s decision signals a shift in our regulations for basic services from voice-related issues to broadband-related issues.

The CRTC will do its part to attain these objectives by setting up a fund to support the achievement of these goals. This funding mechanism will be aligned with the broader ecosystem of current and future funding and investments from the public and private sectors. This includes the Government of Canada’s recent announcement on connecting Canadians.

Canadians who live with a hearing or speech disability stated that it is difficult to find information related to telecommunications plans and services that address their needs. They also indicated that there is no uniformity among wireless service plans for people with disabilities, nor is there consistency in how American sign language and langue des signes québécoise users are informed of these plans.

As we can’t depend on market forces to address these issues, 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. Furthermore, all wireless service providers’ websites are expected to meet the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by June 1, 2017.

Before I conclude today, I want to address some of the other issues that Canadians talked about during our Let’s Talk Broadband conversation.

Canadians told us about the many gaps that hinder their ability to participate in the digital economy. With the new fund, the CRTC is helping to ensure the infrastructure is in place to make high-quality broadband services available.

However, some of the other gaps, like digital literacy, fall outside of our core mandate. Others, like affordability, will require a multi-faceted approach, including the participation of other stakeholders. At this time, the CRTC is not taking any additional action that could inadvertently impede the development of further private and public-sector initiatives for affordable broadband Internet service for low-income Canadians.

Nonetheless, we have submitted a report to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada as part of the Innovation Agenda, at his request. In this report, the CRTC highlights the key challenges to broadband access. The report also speaks to the critical importance of a coordinated effort by all players such as the CRTC, different levels of government including First Nations, the telecommunications industry, and non-governmental organizations.

Our decision complements the Innovation Agenda. The CRTC is doing its part to close the broadband gaps and we hope, for the sake of our future, that other players will also act.

Thank you. I will take your questions now.

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Contacts

Media Relations
(819) 997-9403

General Inquiries
(819) 997-0313
Toll-free: 1 (877) 249-CRTC (2782)
TTY: (819) 994-0423
Ask a question or make a complaint

Stay Connected
Follow us on Twitter @CRTCeng
Like us on Facebook www.facebook.com/crtceng