In order to get high-speed internet service across the country, Canada’s telecommunications companies will need to pony up hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to build the necessary infrastructure.
But, thanks to a ruling from Canada’s main industry regulator, that high-speed access is going to be an “essential service” that companies will need to provide within the next five years.
“Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive,” Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, said in a statement announcing the decision.
“All players in the Canadian communications landscape will need to do their part to ensure Canadians have access to the services they need to participate in the digital economy.
The decision establishes that all Canadians should be able to access voice and broadband internet services on fixed and mobile networks.
The commission has established target speeds of 50 megabits per second download and 10 megabits upload (82 percent of Canadians had access to these speeds in 2015) and unlimited data options for fixed broadband services. This is a tenfold increase to the old targets, set in 2011, said chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.
To get there, the commission is requiring internet and phone providers to pay into a fund, up to $750 million — $100 million of which comes from the regulator itself — to build and improve the infrastructure to extend high speed internet access to underserved areas.
That’s on top of more than $800 million pledged by the federal government over the next five years. Most of that comes new fund set up by the Trudeau government, while $305 million was established by the previous Conservative government.
In addition to the broadband announcement, the telecommunications regulator set a goal of ensuring that the latest mobile technology is available not only in homes and business, but also along major Canadian roads.
The commission is also requiring internet service providers to ensure contracts are written in plain language, that consumers are able to manage their data usage through online tools, and that wireless service providers create mobile service packages available to Canadians with disabilities within six months.