A First Mile Response to CBC Opinion piece on CRTC BSO decision

In response to Saadia Muzaffar’s opinion piece on CBC’s web site at http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/broadband-basic-service-1.3913627 –What good is declaring broadband a ‘basic service’ without regulating retail prices? Without affordability thresholds, there’s no guarantee that access in vulnerable communities will improve ..

Brian Beaton wrote this First Mile response: IT IS THE FIRST STEP in a very long process ..

It has taken a very long time to get to this point where the regulator is taking the first necessary step towards making access to the internet an essential service / a basic right for every Canadian. The Basic Service Objective (BSO) hearings helped the CRTC to come to their decision. This lengthy and expensive process took over two years from the time of the original announcement of the hearings back in 2014 to the first round of submissions, to all the interventions, the actual hearings, and finally to the December 21, 2016 decision. The First Mile team was involved in this process throughout the entire process.

The additional CRTC decision to begin raising some of the dollars ($750M over 5 years) to invest in the infrastructure in rural and remote regions supporting access to the internet, independent of where one is living is another important step. The First Mile team successfully advocated for such a fund to support communities to own and operate their local and regional connection when telcos failed to do so. These steps should to be recognized and celebrated as important and necessary. This is a long process that requires many steps but one step at a time makes a lot of sense to ensure everyone is included throughout the process.

We now hope the telcos will positively respond and be encouraged to begin an aggressive effort to meet the minimum connection speed requirements in all remote and rural communities across Canada as outlined by the CRTC’s decision. If they choose to fight against it then I hope the CRTC will step in and put in place the required regulations to ensure both affordability and equitable access is available for all. I also think the government has a responsibility to legislate this heavily subsidized industry to do what is right for all Canadians who have been and are paying for their huge salaries and profits.

There is still lots of work to be done by everyone. You correctly point out that the infrastructure is critical to be able to achieve the desired goals. So let’s begin the work of building and sustaining the necessary infrastructure in the remote and rural communities before we start insisting that the complicated issue of price regulations be addressed. We are hopeful the communities and telcos will be able to work together to share the connections in such a manner that benefits everyone. If that becomes impossible to realize then it will be up to the CRTC and the government to intervene to ensure every Canadian citizen is able to access this essential service.

In the meantime the next step identified by the CRTC is to begin the process of determining who and how the new infrastructure fund will be established and managed. For this step to be successful, it is important for the CRTC to include all the different participants to the table. The First Mile team is ready and willing to work with the CRTC and others to ensure the telecom infrastructure needs of the remote and rural communities are properly addressed.

Our press release about the CRTC decision highlights the work of all our partners in ensuring remote and rural First Nations receive affordable and equitable internet connections. Click here to see our PRESS RELEASE