BY: MIROSLAV TOMOSKI
On Wednesday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced it would add $750 million in additional investments toward expanding broadband access across the country. The announcement comes after a survey of more than 50,000 Canadians found that internet access in the country could use some significant improvement.
“High quality and reliable digital connectivity is essential for the quality of life of Canadians and Canada’s economic prosperity.” Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO, CRTC, said, setting a new standard for broadband speeds at 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for download and 10 Mbps for upload.
The new standards also mean that Canadians will have access to unlimited data options for fixed broadband access services.
Currently 82% of Canadians have access to broadband that meets the new standards set by the CRTC. The effort to expand access will focus on major roads, rural areas, and Native American communities, where in some cases internet access is non-existent.
But the biggest roadblock — the cost of access — will still have to be addressed by the country’s telecoms companies.
“Affordability concerns are best addressed by the emergence of a dynamic market place where service providers compete on price for telecommunication services,” Blais said.
According to the CRTC’s report, “lower-income households are spending three times more on broadband expenditures, as a percentage of their annual income, than the average Canadian household. Meanwhile…36% of respondents are limiting their Internet use due to cost.”
A 2015 report comparing Canadian access to other developed countries — commissioned annually by the CRTC — considers 1 GB of data per month to be very high-volume usage and found that, in most cases, prices have increased over the previous year.
“Prices for most of the service packages we examined…increased this year relative to last by between 4 per cent and 8 per cent.” The President of Wall Communications, the company commissioned conduct the study, told the Globe and Mail.
The annual report also finds that Canadian prices are well above their European counterparts and on par with those in the US. But other studies suggest that Canadians pay some of the highest rates in the developed world.
When it comes to mobile access, Canada’s telecoms giants Bell, Rogers, and Telus – also known as the Big Three – have been criticized for seemingly colluding to raise the cost of minimum data plan to $80 for 500 MB. While there is no clear evidence of collusion, Sprint, a major carrier in the United States offers unlimited data plans for just $20/month.