CRTC declares broadband internet access a basic service
Today’s decision could pave the way for universal access to high-speed service in remote, rural areas
By Matthew Kupfer, CBC News
Dec 22 2016
The CRTC has declared broadband internet a basic telecommunications service.
In a ruling handed down Wednesday, the national regulator ordered the country’s internet providers to begin working toward boosting internet service and speeds in rural and isolated areas.
“The future of our economy, our prosperity and our society — indeed, the future of every citizen — requires us to set ambitious goals, and to get on with connecting all Canadians for the 21st century,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, the CRTC’s chair, at a news conference in Gatineau, Que.
“Today’s decision signals a fundamental shift in our regulations for basic services from voice-related issues to broadband-related issues.”
Until now, local landline telephone service was the only service deemed “basic” or essential by the CRTC, although Blais has previously called internet service “vital” and essential to life and success.
The CRTC will require internet service providers to contribute to a $750-million fund to improve access in remote and rural areas of Canada. (Denis Rozhnovsky/Shutterstock)
With today’s ruling, the CRTC has set new targets for internet service providers to offer customers in all parts of the country download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 10 Mbps, and to also offer the option of unlimited data.
The CRTC estimates two million Canadian households, or roughly 18 per cent, don’t have access to those speeds or data. The CRTC’s goal is to reduce that to 10 per cent by 2021 and down to zero in the next 10 to 15 years.
To achieve that, the CRTC will require providers pay into a 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.
The fund is similar to one that subsidized the expansion of local landline telephone service in years past. Providers used to pay 0.53 per cent of their revenues, excluding broadband, into that fund. Now they’ll pay the same rate on all revenues, including broadband.
Blais said competition and the broader base of revenues for the fund will keep the cost from being passed on to consumers. Small providers will also be able to access the fund to build infrastructure.