Canada's government announced that it now considers broadband internet a basic telecommunications service to which all Canadians should have access. This should make it so internet service providers (ISPs) in the country will have to provide high-speed connections to all their customers.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said that Canadians need access to 50Mbps download speeds and 10Mbps to participate in the digital economy. It also said there should be no data caps on home internet services and that it wants "the latest mobile wireless technology available not only in homes and businesses, but also along major Canadian roads," so people can have high-speed internet access on the go.
Here's what CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement:
Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive. 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. We are doing our part to bring broadband services to rural and remote communities.
CRTC said that 82% of Canadians already have access to internet speeds of 50Mbps downloads and 10Mbps uploads. But the agency wants that figure to reach 100% so it's established a $750 million (CAD) fund to support projects that would expand high-speed internet access to rural and remote areas. That $750 million would be spent over the course of five years and focus on financing initiatives that haven't already received government assistance.
The announcement comes as many in the United States have to wonder if they'll gain access to internet connections with half the download speeds and one-third the upload speeds. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said in January that 10 percent of Americans lack access to 25Mbps downloads and 3Mbps uploads; many of those people live in rural communities, on American Indian reservations, and within other under-served areas.
The FCC has previously tried to make high-speed internet available to more people. But with chairman Tom Wheeler, who supported broadband expansion as well as principles like net neutrality, departing in January the agency's efforts could lose some steam. That's because president-elect Donald Trump's advisers on telecom policy have opposed plans to use government funds to make broadband internet available to more Americans.
Yet lacking access to high-speed internet is an issue. Pew reported in December 2015 that many Americans without broadband connections feel they're at a "major disadvantage" when it comes to "finding out about job opportunities or gaining new career skills"; "learning about or accessing government services"; "learning new things that may improve or enrich their lives"; "getting health information"; and "keeping up with news and information."
CRTC recognized these shortcomings by establishing these new rules and making that $750 million available to expand internet access. The Great North might not be the warmest place in the world, but it already has better internet connectivity than its southern neighbor, and it's only going to get better.