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A broadband strategy to improve access to high speed internet for all Canadians

by Municipal World
in ONLINE FEATURE, Technology

Better access to high speed internet will improve competitiveness and address digital divide

On October 26, 2018, federal, provincial, and territorial ministers for innovation and economic development agreed to making broadband a priority and to develop a long-term strategy to improve access to high-speed internet services for all Canadians. The commitment to a strategy is the latest outcome of this intergovernmental table focused on driving growth and job creation through innovation.

Ministers recognize that access to high-speed internet service is critical for businesses to grow and compete and for all Canadians to fully access the goods and services available in a digital economy. As outlined in a released statement, ministers agreed to work toward universal access to high-speed internet and to improve access to the latest mobile wireless services along major roads, and where Canadians live and work.

“Access to reliable and quality high-speed internet is no longer a luxury,” says Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Government of Canada. “As a country, we have made incredible advances, building mobile networks that are among the fastest in the world and bringing broadband internet to rural and remote communities across Canada. Yet, there is more to do. The commitment to a strategy we made today reflects the ambition we all share to get all Canadians online and participating in the digital economy.”

Ministers committed to work toward universal access to benchmark internet speeds of 50 Megabits per second download and 10 Megabits per second upload. In 2016, these speeds were available to 41 percent of Canadians in rural and remote areas. Mobile wireless services based on 4G Long Term Evolution technology were available to 98.5 percent of homes, but there are more substantial gaps along unpopulated areas of major roads. Seventy percent of teachers assign homework requiring internet access; students with home internet access have a seven percent higher rate of graduation compared to those without.

High speed connectivity is critical to the prosperity and wellbeing of Canadians, particularly with the next-generation of high-quality networks that will especially enable smart cities, connected cars, and e-health for Canadians.

In December 2016, CRTC declared broadband a basic telecom service for all Canadians. The ministers agreed to two-year work plan when they last met on October 13, 2017 in Vancouver. The work plan was developed to strengthen Canada’s competitive advantages and accelerate economic growth, create jobs, and increase shared prosperity. At the most recent meeting, ministers were also briefed on the report from Canada’s Economic Strategy Tables. This report identifies opportunities to create the conditions for strong, long-term competitiveness that will secure Canadians’ quality of life. Ministers agreed to consider the advice of the tables in advancing their two-year work plan in ways that will help companies to scale up and to adopt new technologies.

“We want to establish Canada and British Columbia as a preferred location for new and emerging technologies, and ensure the benefits of tech and innovation are felt across the province,” says Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology, Government of British Columbia. “Many tech companies are small businesses and a reliable internet connection keeps them at the leading edge of global technological advances. We look forward to collaborating with jurisdictions across Canada to foster job creation and economic development through innovation so Canada stays competitive, and continues to be a place where people want to live and do business.”

Ensuring universal access to high-speed internet and mobile wireless networks is essential for long-term economic growth, innovation, and social progress for all Canadians across the country, and fundamental to success in the modern digital world. Whether its finding information online, selling goods and services to domestic and international markets, or providing e-health or online education services, Canadian consumers, businesses, and public institutions require broadband internet connectivity to participate fully in the digital economy.

To that end, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will be building on existing collaboration and working to enhance connectivity for all Canadians, along with private sector partners, municipalities, public institutions, Indigenous communities, and non-profit organizations, and will be guided by the following three connectivity principles:

1. Access

  • Access to reliable, high quality, and affordable services are necessary for Canada’s success in a digital world to allow all Canadian businesses, households, and public institutions to realize the economic and social benefits of connectivity through the use of advanced technologies and applications.
  • Work toward establishing universal access of at least 50 Megabits per second download and 10 Megabits per second upload, taking into context scalability and longer-term growth.
  • Businesses should have access to networks that support their ability to utilize technology, compete, and contribute to the economy.
  • Mobile connectivity on major highways and roads is an important need, including for safety.

2. Collaboration 

  • Collaboration is essential to address the scope of the challenge and maximize the effect of our actions.
  • Shared objectives and priorities will lead to better outcomes.
  • Gathering, having access to, and sharing reliable data can significantly improve analysis and deployment strategies, as well as enable public reporting on progress.
  • Recognize the unique circumstances of Indigenous communities, especially in remote and isolated locations.

3. Effective investments

  • Targeting market failures allows governments to direct support to where it is needed most.
  • Coordination of regulatory and spending levers helps ensure effective implementation.
  • Open access requirements can promote competition, affordability, and greater choice, and should therefore be considered.
  • Addressing deployment barriers can significantly reduce constructions costs of digital infrastructure.

Ministers also discussed the promotion of Indigenous economic development through partnerships among Indigenous businesses, non-Indigenous businesses, and communities.

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