Canada Access

Communities, local leaders, and entrepreneurs come together for faster, cheaper Internet through Community Broadband

In wake of December’s historic CRTC ruling on high-speed Internet, local governments across the nation are being urged to step up and play their part

January 23, 2017Local governments have a crucial role in delivering faster, cheaper Internet to their communities. That’s the message of a new platform launching today with the support of a grant from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) Community Investment Program. The platform highlights a number of municipalities in urban and rural communities alike which have successfully rolled out affordable, high-speed Internet, most often through deploying fibre networks.

Last month, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled that all Canadians should have access to reliable, world-class Internet services. The Commission also established a $750 million fund to help municipalities, ISPs, community access programs, and non-profit service providers to deliver these services to Canadians.

Community leaders, entrepreneurs, and advocates are weighing in to support the need for Community Broadband:

  • “For years, Bowen Island has suffered from Internet access that is slow and unreliable to the point of being unusable during busy periods,” said Councillor Maureen Nicholson, of Bowen Island Municipal Council in B.C. “Despite our close proximity to Vancouver, the big telecom companies have overlooked our island, and our residents are paying the price. I want to see communities like Bowen work together to ensure all of us can have the faster, cheaper Internet we need to participate meaningfully in our digital economy and society.”

  • "Over the last century, governments have taken measures to ensure citizens have access to critical services, including electricity, phone, water and sewer,” said Elliot Noss, CEO of Toronto-based Tucows, the parent company of fibre Internet access and mobile service brand Ting, as well as Hover and OpenSRS, among the world’s largest domain registrars. “Today, high-speed Internet is considered an essential service, and we applaud municipalities taking steps to ensure their communities have access to the transformative power of the Internet. We especially look forward to seeing the kinds of innovative partnerships that Ting has cultivated with local governments in the U.S. to enable gigabit Internet right here in Canada."

  • “Far too many areas have fallen behind, and it’s clear that we can’t rely on telecom giants to deliver faster, cheaper Internet for all of us,” said Katy Anderson, OpenMedia’s digital rights specialist. “That’s why we’re encouraging local leaders to step up and embrace the potential of community broadband. Community broadband’s return on investment is incredible — high-speed Internet keeps people in their communities, attracts new tech businesses, saves money, and brings ownership to the people who use it.”

Specific examples of forward-looking municipalities highlighted on the Community-Broadband.ca platform include Coquitlam (B.C.), Olds (Alberta), Stratford (Ontario), and the Eastern Ontario region.  The platform sets out a number of advantages of municipally-run broadband, including:

  • Closing the digital divide: Municipal broadband is one of the best ways we can close the digital divide in Canada. It connects rural populations to state-of-the-art fibre networks, and levels the playing field when Big Telecom won’t invest outside the city limits.

  • Flexibility: While infrastructure is typically invested in by the local government, the municipality doesn’t have to sell Internet services directly. It can build the network and let other companies or community organizations sell services over it.

  • Affordability: There are examples in Canada where taxes didn’t need to be raised to pay for broadband infrastructure. For example, the profits from Olds, Alberta’s municipal broadband service O-Net are projected to completely pay off the community’s loans from the government within 10 years. Meanwhile the whole community in Olds benefits from faster, cheaper Internet.

In December, the CRTC ruled that all Canadians must have access to reliable, world-class residential Internet services at speeds of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. As part of the ruling, the CRTC set up a new $750 million fund over the next 5 years to support projects in areas that do not meet these targets.

To qualify, any new projects must receive financial support from government entities, including municipal, provincial, federal, and aboriginal governments.

Canadians can learn more and call on their local representatives to take action at Community-Broadband.ca

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.

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