Budget 2016 investment of up to $500 million in rural Internet is welcome, but should be used to build open access networks, not as a handout for Big Telecom
Announced investment is a welcome start, but the devil will be in the details
March 22, 2016– Today’s budget announcement of up to $500 million in new Internet investment is a welcome step forward, and one that’s long overdue for rural residents. That’s according to OpenMedia, which advocates for Canadian Internet users. However OpenMedia cautions that the money should not be used to subsidize Big Telecom giants, and that much more is needed to ensure all Canadians benefit from affordable, high-speed Internet access.
“This investment is a welcome start, but the devil will be in the details. Far too many Canadians are being left behind due to broadband Internet being either unaffordable or unavailable where they live,” said OpenMedia’s communications manager David Christopher. “However we need to ensure this doesn’t amount merely to a subsidy program for Big Telecom — all providers, large and small, must be able to access next-generation networks built with taxpayer dollars.”
Today’s announcement referred to a “new program” to extend and advance rural and remote Internet, with further details to be announced in coming months. In 2014, the previous government pledged $305m over 5 years for rural Internet, and Canadians will be watching closely to ascertain whether today’s funding is in addition to investment already pledged. The CRTC will also soon commence hearings on its Review of Basic Telecommunications Services.
OpenMedia believes a Digital Endowment fund of at least $2.2 billion is needed to ensure all Canadians have world-class, affordable Internet, and that it’s essential that local community groups, municipalities, and businesses are given an opportunity to access any new funds earmarked for broadband investment.