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Canada creates fund for 50Mb/s universal broadband

Canada’s telecom regulator has declared that broadband internet access must be considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians, and has established a CAN$750 million (€533 million) fund to extend coverage in rural and remote areas.

The ambitious new speed targets set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) aim to enable all Canadians to participate in the digital economy. While the majority are well-served, millions still do not have access to broadband Internet access services that are comparable to those offered to most Canadians in terms of speed, capacity, quality and price, the regulator said.

The regulator wants fixed broadband speeds of 50Mb/s download and 10Mb/s upload to be available in 90 per cent of Canadian homes and businesses by the end of 2021, and in the remaining 10 per cent of households within 10-15 years. Only 82 per cent of Canadians had access to those speeds in 2015.

To help meet the new targets, the CRTC is establishing a fund that will invest over and above existing government programs to support projects in areas that are currently underserved. Applicants will be able to submit funding proposals to build or upgrade infrastructure for fixed and mobile broadband services.

The new broadband fund is intended to complement existing and future private and public investment. Up to $750 million will be available over the first five years, managed at arm’s length by a third party. Applicants will have to demonstrate that they have broad support by attracting other sources of funding from both public and private partners.

With this announcement, the CRTC is shifting its regulatory focus from wireline voice to broadband services. The organisation will be phasing out its subsidy scheme for local voice services, worth $100 million in 2016, and transitioning to the new funding mechanism to support projects that meet the broadband targets.

“Access to broadband Internet service is vital and a basic telecommunication service all Canadians are entitled to receive. Canadians who participated during our process told us that no matter where they live or work in our vast country — whether in a small town in northern Yukon, a rural area of eastern Quebec or in downtown Calgary — everyone needs access to high-quality fixed Internet and mobile services. We are doing our part to bring broadband services to rural and remote communities,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman and CEO, CRTC

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