Advocates stunned by CRTC’s decision to cut its own Internet speed targets in half for new Broadband Fund
Canadians are calling on Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains to send the decision back to the CRTC for reconsideration immediately
September 27, 2018 — Today the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced the criteria it will use to determine how to allocate the $750 million it had previously set aside for investment in developing broadband services. Disappointingly, the much-anticipated Broadband Fund decision that was expected to help fill the gaps in Canada’s broadband service instead lowered the bar for the CRTC’s previously set speed targets by half.
In 2016, when the $750 million Broadband Fund was announced, the CRTC set ambitious speed targets for the country at 50 Mbps download, and 10 Mbps upload. But applicants to the CRTC’s Broadband Fund are only required to meet half those speeds, at 25 Mbps download, and 5 Mbps upload.
“Today’s decision is a stunning step backwards, and demonstrates a serious lack of ambition from CRTC Chair Ian Scott. Internet users and business owners are going to be furious when they realize the CRTC lowered their own speed targets for funding in half,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe. “This Commission wasn’t even ambitious enough to meet its own definition of a basic service. If Navdeep Bains and Justin Trudeau are serious about building an innovative and connected Canada, they need to send this decision back for reconsideration immediately.”
Canadians have been paying some of the highest prices in the world for middle of the road Internet service for decades. The Broadband Fund was created because market forces alone have failed to connect Canadians to high-speed Internet, and the CRTC recognized it needs to step in to help fill that gap. But today’s decision provides an unambitious plan, which doesn’t go far enough to make that happen.
The $750 million investment was originally announced in 2016 as a part of the decision that declared the Internet as a basic service in Canada. The CRTC then opened a proceeding to determine how the funds should be allocated, and what criteria should be required to be eligible to apply. Today’s decision sets the framework for if and how companies, governments and organizations can access the funds moving forward.
The regime adopts a transparent selection process, and allows for a wide variety of applicants, which are both beneficial for opening up the pool to new and smaller providers and ensuring accountability for how the funds are allocated. However, in failing to meet its own basic service objectives as a funding requirement, the CRTC has failed to meet the basic needs of this proceeding: providing Canada with faster, more reliable Internet services.