Canada has recognized the obvious and declared high-speed
broadband internet access a “basic
telecommunications service
” that every citizen should be able to
access. Previously, only landline telephone services had received this
designation from the country’s national telecoms regulator, CRTC, and the
change is supported by a government investment package of up to $750 million to
wire up rural 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 CRTC
chair Jean-Pierre Blais at a news conference. “These goals are ambitious. They
will not be easy to achieve and they will cost money. But we have no choice.”
The CRTC estimates that
some two million Canadian households, or 18 percent of the population, do not
currently have access to their desired speeds. The $750 million government fund
will help to pay for infrastructure to remedy this. The money will be
distributed over five years, with the CRTC expecting 90 percent of Canadians to
access the new speeds by 2021.
As part of declaring broadband a “basic”
or essential service, the CRTC has also set new goals for download and upload
speeds. For fixed broadband services, all citizens should have the option of
unlimited data with speeds of at least 50 megabits per second for downloads and
10 megabits per second for uploads — a tenfold increase of previous targets set
in 2011. The goals for mobile coverage are less ambitious, and simply call for
“access to the latest mobile wireless technology” in cities and major transport
corridors.
The new digital plan also touches on accessibility problems,
with CRTC mandating that wireless service providers will have to offer
platforms that address the needs of people with hearing or speech disabilities
within six months. Blais said this timeline was necessary, as the country
“can’t depend on market forces to address these issues.”

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