High-speed Internet declared essential service in Canada

Dec 21 2016, 9:47 pm

Broadband internet is now considered an essential service in Canada, according to The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

“Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO, CRTC, in a release. “Canadians… no matter where they live or work in our vast country… everyone needs access to high-quality fixed Internet and mobile services. ”

The availability, however “is an issue that can’t be solved by the CRTC alone,” Blais added. “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.”

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 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

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.

Quick Facts

  • 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).