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Government’s digital strategy leaves Canada stuck in the slow lane - fails to tackle stark digital divide and national digital deficit

Canadians deserve so much more than just warmed-up leftovers from previous government announcements: new strategy means Canada will likely fall even further behind its global counterparts on Internet affordability, access, and speed

  • The government has backtracked on a 2011 CRTC commitment to ensure every Canadian had 5 Mbps broadband access by 2015. The new strategy pushes back that target date to 2019, and merely promises that most (98%), but not all, Canadians will be covered - 700,000 Canadians will be left behind.
  • The government’s unambitious target of 5 Mbps broadband by 2019 is far slower than targets set by Canada’s global counterparts:
  • - The United States plans to connect over 100 million households to 100 Mbps broadband by 2020.
    - The E.U. is aiming for all Europeans to have access to 30Mbps next-generation broadband networks by 2020.
    - Argentina has set a target for 97% of its citizens to have 10 Mbps access by 2015.
    - Australia’s National Broadband Network will see most Australians have access to 25 Mbps speeds by 2016.

  • The government’s announcement of a $305m investment in rural broadband and a $200m investment to help small and medium-sized businesses adopt digital technologies is a welcome start - but won’t be anywhere near enough for Canada to catch up with its global counterparts. The government will need to invest the full $5 Billion they just pulled in from licensing public spectrum assets to ensure all Canadians have an alternative to the terrible speeds and high prices offered by Big Telecom.
  • The government has not specified that their investment will include an open access requirement. That means the government could simply hand taxpayer money to Big Telecom, which is obviously not what Canadians are looking for.

“The government has had years to get this right - which makes today’s unveiling all the more disappointing”, says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “This reads like the digital strategy for the last 5 years - not for the 5 years ahead. This whole strategy suffers from an appalling lack of ambition - Canadians deserve so much better than just warmed-up leftovers from previous government announcements. Although there are some positive proposals here, all in all Canada will still be left playing catch-up with the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to Internet access and affordability.”

Anderson continued: “This strategy has been such a long time coming that Canadians had high hopes we would finally get the ambitious roadmap we deserve - a roadmap that would tackle our national digital deficit and our stark digital divide. Instead it looks like we’re set to fall even further behind our global counterparts. The government has no excuse for inaction - the resources are ready and waiting from the recent $5.2 billion wireless spectrum windfall to deliver the connected future Canadians deserve. That’s why Canadians deserve so much better than the unambitious half-measures announced today. All in all I’d give this plan a C+”

OpenMedia.ca has worked with Canadians on a crowdsourced action plan that would improve speeds and lower prices in rural and northern Canada. Three key items this citizen-driven plan calls for:

  • Spectrum auction proceeds to be invested in 21st century Internet infrastructure, with investment decisions made in consultation with local communities. Canada needs to invest the full $5.2 Billion in spectrum proceeds to make a start on catching up with other industrialized nations.
  • Prices would be lowered by splitting off the networks from the large telecom providers, so that all providers, large and small, could operate on a level playing field.
  • Ensuring that when giant telecom companies break the rules and hurt Canadian families they face significant six-figure monetary penalties.

Thousands of Canadians are speaking out at https://OpenMedia.ca/Endowment to tell James Moore to use our $5.2bn spectrum windfall as a Digital Endowment to ensure all Canadians have independent, world-class Internet access.

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.

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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