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Access to Broadband for All Canadians

The Issue

It has been nearly five years since the federal government convened the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel (TPRP), which made a series of recommendations in early 2006 regarding telecommunications policy reform, including changes to the Telecommunications Act and restructuring of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), among others.
While many reforms have been carried out, the TPRP recommendation to have a national broadband strategy (Chapter 8 of the report) has been wholly ignored. The TPRP made the following recommendation:


Recommendation 8-1

As a key part of its national ICT strategy, the federal government should

(a) ensure that Canada remains a global leader in the deployment of broadband networks, and

(b) immediately commence a program to ensure that affordable and reliable broadband services are available in all regions of Canada, including urban, rural and remote areas, by 2010 at the latest.

The CCI’s concern is that Canada is falling behind many other countries, which have established broadband policies and set aggressive targets for broadband adoption. Canada’s economy risks becoming irrelevant in the broadband age, and without affordable broadband access of high quality, many Canadians will be economically and socially disadvantaged.

It has been even longer since the Broadband Task Force of 2001 recommended, in part, that “All communities should be linked to national broadband networks via a high-speed, high-capacity and scalable transport link.”The goal was to complete this expansion by 2004. This has not happened and, without leadership, it will not happen.

Canada can and must move forward in broadband deployment. However, such progress is mired in regulatory complications before the CRTC and hampered by piecemeal programs that do not provide Canada with a comprehensive broadband strategy. It is the role of the Government of Canada to lead this broadband strategy.

Recommendations

To that end, on behalf of Canadian citizens and consumers, we are seeking

  1. Access to broadband at minimum speeds and acceptable quality at affordable rates for all Canadians.
  2. Subsidies for low-income Canadians for broadband connections.
  3. Market delivery of broadband with the realization that the market cannot, alone, deliver sufficient connectivity without incentives and other assistance from government.1 Where the market cannot deliver broadband service even with government assistance, more direct government involvement will be required.
  4. “Net neutrality” to ensure the benefits of open, accessible Internet architecture to all Canadians.

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