CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais delivers a statement in Gatineau, Que., in a May 5, 2015, file photo.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais delivers a statement in Gatineau, Que., in a May 5, 2015, file photo.
Photo Credit: PC / Adrian Wyld

UPDATED: Telecom regulator declares broadband Internet basis service in Canada

Broadband access Internet service is now considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians, regardless whether they live in major urban centres or remote rural communities, Canada’s national telecommunications regulator declared today.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is also setting new speed targets and will require Internet providers to pay into a new fund that’s set to grow to $750 million over five years.

The companies will be able to dip into that fund to help pay for the infrastructure needed to extend high-speed service to areas where it is not currently available.

‘Vital service’

Speaking at a press conference in Gatineau, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said broadband Internet access services are necessary to the quality of life for Canadians and empowers them as citizens, creators and consumers.

“Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive,” 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.”

(click to listen to the Jean-Pierre Blais’ announcement)

New targets

The federal regulator has set the following targets for the basic telecommunications services:

  • speeds of 50 megabits per second (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.

Currently, about 82 per cent of households and businesses receive services that meet these targets for broadband Internet. The CRTC wants that increased to 90 per cent by 2021 and to 100 per cent within 10 to 15 years.

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

Broadband Internet services would allow more Canadian entrepreneurs to easily access crucial information relating to international markets and create more business opportunities across Canada, Blais said.

“High quality and reliable digital connectivity is essential for the quality of life of Canadians and Canada’s economic prosperity,” Blais said.

‘A game changer’

Rogers Communications provided a written statement saying it already offers speeds 20 times the CRTC’s standard and unlimited plans wherever it offers internet service.

“While there are still many details to be worked out, we are encouraged by this reasonable plan to help increase access to Canadians in hard to reach areas of our country,” said David Watt, senior vice-president of regulatory affairs.

Advocacy group OpenMedia, regularly one of the CRTC’s sharpest critics, was elated at Wednesday’s declaration.

“It’s a real game changer, especially for rural and under-served communities right across the country,” said OpenMedia spokesman David Christopher.

The CRTC also mandated companies to come up with better services for handicapped Canadians.

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