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Federal budget investment in rural broadband welcome but it must not be used to entrench Big Telecom’s poor service

Community-based OpenMedia.ca says $2bn investment and open access requirements needed to ensure rural Canadians have quality Internet service independent of the high costs and slow speeds offered by Canada’s Big Telecom giants

In today’s Federal Budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced an investment of $305 million over 5 years to expand rural high speed Internet. OpenMedia.ca says it’s vital that local community groups, municipalities, and businesses are given an opportunity to access these funds. OpenMedia.ca also welcomes Minister Flaherty resestablishing the government’s commitment to establish fair wireless roaming rates and to empower the CRTC, Canada’s telecom policymaker, to admister financial penaltiies against Big Telecom giants that break customer protection rules.

Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for broadband, because 90% of the market is controlled by just a few big telecom conglomerates. Rural Canadians face even higher costs and slower speeds than their counterparts in the big cities, while often having no alternative to Big Telecom for Internet service.

“Investment in rural high-speed Internet access is hugely important for the future of a connected Canada,” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “It’s encouraging to see the government acknowledge the problem - but the measures announced today won’t go far enough to deliver the quality high-speed Internet that rural Canadians deserve. The devil is in the details - if the funds announced today go directly to big telecom conglomerates without accountability, then this will end up looking like Big Telecom welfare that no Canadian wants.”

Anderson continued: “Instead of padding Big Telecom’s bottom line, these funds must be made available to local businesses, municipalities and rural startups to build networks that are independent of the telecom giants. And where Big Telecom does access these public funds, there must be an Open Access requirement to ensure Canadians can access digital services from a range of independent providers. Considering Stephen Harper’s promise to increase telecom choice, rural Canadians deserve and expect access to independent options outside of Big Telecom.”

OpenMedia.ca has worked with thousands of Canadians on a crowdsourced action plan that would improve speeds and lower prices in rural and northern Canada. The citizen-backed group also led the successful Stop the Meter campaign, the largest online campaign in Canadian history, which rallied over half-a-million Canadians to stop Big Telecom companies from forcing a pay meter on all Internet users in Canada.

Canadians can send their MP a copy of OpenMedia.ca’s crowdsourced action plan for a more connected Canada at https://OpenMedia.ca/report

About OpenMedia.ca

OpenMedia.ca is a network of people and organizations working to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy.

Through campaigns such as StopTheMeter.ca and StopSpying.ca, OpenMedia.ca has engaged over half-a-million Canadians, and has influenced public policy and federal law.

About the Demand Choice campaign

The Demand Choice campaign was launched to pressure decision-makers to take action for greater choice and lower prices in Canada’s telecom market. Early in 2012 OpenMedia.ca launched a campaign decrying the price-gouging poor customer service and lack of choice in the cell phone market at StopTheSqueeze.ca.

OpenMedia.ca then highlighted Canadians’ Cell Phone Horror Stories in a crowdsourced submission to the CRTC, and released a citizen-driven report entitled ‘Time for an Upgrade’ detailing their findings and recommendations.

This citizen pressure resulted in a broadly positive new set of customer-friendly rules for wireless companies – national rules that reign in punitive three-year contracts, make it easier to switch to a new affordable provider, and impose caps on data roaming fees.

The Big Three cell phone providers recently unleashed an expensive PR campaign to mislead cell phone users. Canadians took to the Internet to ridicule and debunk the Big Three’s claims in a wide variety of ways - speaking out on reddit and on Facebook, and even creating parody websites, parody videos on YouTube and parody accounts on Twitter. We’ve also seen citizen-produced op-eds appear in newspapers across the country, taking the Big Three to task for their years of terrible customer service.

Over 60,000 Canadians have now participated in the Demand Choice campaign, with more standing up for wireless choice and affordability every day.



David Christopher
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
[email protected]

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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. Take action now

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