It’s no secret that Canadians have unequal access to high-speed internet.
Whether the result of geographic limitations or a lack of affordability, only a small fraction of Canadians subscribe to broadband Internet service with a downstream rate of at least 50 Mbps and an upstream rate of at least 10 Mbps. This is the threshold considered to be “high-speed.”
The fact that only 11% of Canadians subscribe to a service delivering these rates despite it being available to 82% of the population speaks to the issue of affordability. This leaves about two million households that don’t even have the option of accessing high-speed internet.
The good news is that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has established a $750 million fund to expand high-speed internet access to the country’s most remote areas. Another $800 million will be committed by the federal government. Internet service providers (ISPs) will be able to access this fund to expand their broadband service. The CRTC also said ISPs will be required to offer unlimited data options for broadband services.
“Access to broadband internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive,” said CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.
“The availability of broadband internet, however, is an issue that can’t be solved by the CRTC alone.”
That’s where Canada’s big ISPs like Rogers and Bell come in. Rogers said it already offers speeds of up to 20 times the CRTC recommendation in its entire service area. Bell, meanwhile, said it is “reviewing the decision.”
Here’s where things could get unpleasant: there is no cap on what ISPs can charge customers for basic broadband internet. As ISPs widen their high-speed internet offering, it’s possible the price of these services will increase.
“By the end of 2021, we expect 90% of Canadian homes and businesses will have access to broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads,” reads a statement by the CRTC.
Unfortunately, the word “affordable” does not appear anywhere among these announcements.