Canada declares broadband Internet access a basic service
The regulator has set minimum access standards and is establishing a
US$556m fund to expand services in remote regions
By Emma Crawford Hampel
Access to high-speed Internet is “necessary to the quality of life for Canadians” and is now a basic right for all Canadians, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced, marking a departure from its previous stance that minimum standards applied only to voice services.
Calling broadband Internet “necessary to the quality of life for Canadians,” the CRTC announced it has set minimum access speed of 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads for all customers. As well, all Canadians—including those living in rural and remote areas—should be able to access an unlimited data option for Internet services.
“Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive,” CRTC chairman and CEO Jean-Pierre Blais said. “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 CRTC also announced it is establishing a C$750 million (US$556 million) fund intended to implement minimum Internet access in all areas of the country. The amount will be available over the next five years and will be on top of existing and future private investment and public funding.
The CRTC said it is shifting its focus from wireline voice to high-speed Internet services. Currently, a C$100 million-per-annum (US$74 million) subsidy is in place for residential voice service in remote and rural areas in Canada. This amount will be transitioned into the new fund.
The regulator is not taking any steps to address service affordability, which it said “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,” it said.