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Internet as a basic, affordable service for all Canadians: OpenMedia to make definitive case on final day of CRTC hearings Thursday

Lack of affordable options and national gaps in access shows Canada’s digital divide crosses both urban and rural boundaries

WHAT: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is about to wrap up 3 weeks of hearings reviewing the basic telecommunications services available to Canadians.

The CRTC is examining whether broadband access to the Internet should be included as a “basic service” to ensure all Canadians can participate meaningfully in the digital economy. It is also asking all participants for comment on a proposal to set a national, basic level broadband package at a reasonable price — a proposal that OpenMedia and others have long called for.

OpenMedia, which has campaigned for years for all Canadians to have affordable access to high-speed Internet will be making its presentation on Thursday, the final day of the hearings. The group crowdsourced priorities from over 40,000 Canadians and worked with top telecom experts to distil those priorities into a thorough and achievable policy strategy.

WHERE: The CRTC hearings take place at Conference Centre, Phase IV, 140 Promenade du Portage, in Gatineau, Quebec.

WHEN: OpenMedia’s presentation takes place between approximately 9:30am and 12.30pm Eastern Time on Thursday April 28.*

*NOTE: While the hearing begins at 8:30am on Thursday, OpenMedia is the second presenter following Quebecor Inc. Thus, OpenMedia’s precise start time is determined by how long the Commission takes with Quebecor, which we estimate will take between 1 to 2 hours.

WHO: OpenMedia’s presentation will be delivered by Campaigns Director Josh Tabish, Digital Rights Specialist Laura Tribe, and consultant Dr. David Ellis.

WHY: Due to high prices, lack of choice, and in many cases lack of access, millions of Canadians are being left on the wrong side of our digital divide. According to the government’s own statistics, nearly 1 in 5 households have not adopted broadband Internet services, while 2 in 5 households in the lowest income bracket have no residential connection and 1 in 3 don’t have a mobile phone (see: 2015 Communications Monitoring Report or summary here).

In a speech last week, CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said these hearings “may very well be the last best chance to get it right.”

OpenMedia agrees with Chairperson Blais, and, based on feedback from the public, will argue that market forces have failed to provide reliable and affordable Internet services for all Canadians. The group will make ten key policy recommendations comprising a comprehensive new approach to the issue. These recommendations include:

  • Mandating broadband access to the Internet as a basic service to ensure nobody is left behind, and to motivate the industry to do better.

  • The creation of a basic, affordable Internet package available to all Canadians across all providers with minimum service quality guarantees.

  • Setting an ambitious speed target of 25/15 Mbps or more for 2020 to ensure Canada keeps pace with its industrialized global counterparts.

QUOTE

“The Internet is an essential part of our everyday lives, yet right now we’re leaving millions of Canadians on the wrong side of the digital divide. This is not just a rural problem, or a problem of the north. This is a national problem and it calls for a national solution. We’ve heard from tens of thousands of people, whose views we’ll be taking directly to the CRTC on Thursday.

“This hearing represents one of the most important moments in the history of the CRTC. We hope they’ll listen closely to what the public are saying, and embrace our comprehensive action plan to ensure all Canadians can benefit from affordable, high-quality, high-speed Internet access.”

  • Josh Tabish, Campaign Director, OpenMedia

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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