Isn’t some kind of broadband better than nothing? The CRTC thinks so. And I agree.
When the Commission released its plans for its $750M Broadband Development Fund earlier this fall, it decided that it would accept applications to provide broadband service at download speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and 5 Mbps up, despite having previously announced an aspirational target for all Canadians to eventually be able to get twice those speeds.
Activists wrongly claimed that the Commission had cut its objectives in half from the bold universal service objective set less than 2 years ago. Indeed, an opinion piece at cbc.ca asked “Why would service providers hold themselves to CRTC targets when the CRTC itself won’t?”
The fact is, in its 2016 policy, the CRTC itself recognized that “in some underserved areas, achieving the objective will likely need to be accomplished in incremental steps.”
The newest CRTC policy isn’t making any kind of a change to the 2016 policy; it is executing precisely as envisioned in 2016. In both cases, the Commission realized that the current state of technology makes it impractical to provide 50 Mbps service to some parts of the country at anything close to a reasonable subsidy per household.
The reality is that funds are limited. As the CRTC found in 2016, “Closing the gap in broadband Internet access service availability in Canada is an enormous financial challenge, requiring billions of dollars in funding and investments that can only be overcome through shared responsibility.” Various government programs are helping bring affordable broadband access to Canadians in rural and remote regions.
If those subsidies were only applied where speeds of 50Mbps are possible, then some Canadians will continue to have no access at all. While we would all like to have faster internet at a lower price, I think most people will agree that access to some level of broadband is better than no broadband. And let’s not forget that that the speeds being required by the CRTC are the kinds of broadband that nearly half of all Canadians chose for our own homes.
When some Canadians are wanting for any kind of affordable broadband, it takes a certain kind of arrogance to proclaim that 25Mbps just isn’t good enough.
There are lots of reasons Canadians like to gripe about the CRTC – it is part of our national birthright. The Commission’s Broadband Plan isn’t one of them. It’s time to stop complaining and get on with building more broadband networks.
Mark Goldberg is a telecommunications consultant with more than 35 years of international experience in strategic planning, managing, designing and implementing telecommunications networks. His background includes heading the Network Services organization for one of Canada’s largest long distance companies, developing the network architecture for competition in Canada, design of the US Government Voice Network, creating the business plan for Canada’s Information Highway initiative, and helping international entrepreneurs launch traditional and enhanced telecommunications services. In naming him as one of Canada’s top 10 technology bloggers in April 2008, itWorld Canada wrote: “No one does a better job of exploring, interpreting or criticizing telecommunications policy in Canada. Period.