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April 11, 2016

CRTC kicks off hearing on Internet access

Internet speeds “at or above” the CRTC's target of 5 megabits per second load and 1 megabit per second upload within hexagon areas of 25 square kilometres “may not be achievable throughout the entire LTE coverage area.”

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today begins a public hearing which will tackle whether or not high-speed Internet should be considered a basic communication service.

Dozens of broadband issues will be considered in the regulators Lets #TalkBroadband hearing but the main focus is expected to be four key questions:

  • How should broadband access be extended throughout Canada and its remote northern territories?
  • Should high-speed Internet access be considered a basic telecom service?
  • If it should, how will broadband speeds and services be defined?
  • How will the service be paid for?

“Today, we are starting a three-week hearing to examine the basic telecommunications services that Canadians need to participate in the digital economy,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, the chairman, and CEO, CRTC, in a statement. “This will be an opportunity for the CRTC to test, challenge and validate the evidence that has been put on the public record.”

More than 25 000 comments were received by the CRTC during the first phase of the consultation which kicked off in April last year, and more than 30 000 Canadians filled out the questionnaire during the second phase.

The hearing starts today and ends April 28 in Ottawa. Canadians are again being asked to take part in an online forum that will remain open until 8 pm EST. The transcript of the discussion on the online forum will be added to the public record of the CRTC’s evidence-based proceedings and considered as part of its decision-making process.

Hundreds of written submissions have been received by the CRTC. No less than 90 individuals, academics, advocacy organizations, lobby groups, academics, municipalities, as well as telecom companies are scheduled to appear at the hearing.

While many people in many major Canadian cities might think that high-speed Internet has become ubiquitous, this is simply not true for the rest of the people leaving throughout the country’s vast expanse.

A map of broadband coverage released by the CRTC, actually depicts that at the end of 2015,

Internet coverage is largely concentrated in areas straddling the Canada-United States border.

According to the CRTC, Internet speeds “at or above” the regulator’s target of 5 megabits per second load and 1 megabit per second upload within hexagon areas of 25 square kilometres “may not be achievable throughout the entire LTE coverage area.”

People living in rural areas in Canada’s northern territories are much more likely to be dissatisfied with Internet speed and reliability (if they happen to have broadband access at all) than people living in the southern parts of the country, according to a recent survey by Ottawa-based EKOS Research Associates for the CRTC. More than 28,700 people were polled for the survey.

“Countrywide, more than one in five Canadians with Internet service said that they limit their use (or at least have done so in the last 12 months),” according to EKOS.

Most of the time this is related to the capacity of the service (i.e., reliability, speed, monthly data cap), or to the cost.

“The extent of limitations, however, is fifty per cent greater among rural consumers than it is among urban consumers, with one in three saying that they limit themselves to at least some extent, largely because of capacity or cost of their home Internet service,” the polling firm said. “This is particularly acute in areas of the country served exclusively by DSL, fixed wireless and/or satellite, where reliability, download speeds, and monthly data allowances are vastly inferior to those reported by urban residents.”

About this author

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Nestor Arellano

Nestor is a Toronto-based journalist who specializes in writing about technology and business. He is the editor of Vanguard Magazine and the associate editor of IT in Canada and a regular contributor to CGE.

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