Mark Goldberg


#CTS18: The closing keynote address

On June 6, the closing keynote address at The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit was delivered by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains. Following his speech, I had a chance to pose a couple questions to him, as captured in the video.

These are his prepared remarks, provided to media. You can check against delivery:

Last year at this summit, I shared with you my vision for Canadians and telecommunications, and it was focused on three things: quality, coverage and price.

So what progress have we made over the last 12 months?

Let me tackle quality first because we want our telecom services to be fast enough so every Canadian can participate fully in the digital economy.

Parlons d’abord de qualité. Nous voulons que nos services de télécommunications soient assez rapides pour que tous les Canadiens puissent participer pleinement à l’économie numérique.

Improved quality will allow us to innovate whether it be augmented reality, cloud computing, or precision health.

And we’ve done some pretty remarkable things to improve quality. We joined the provincial governments of Ontario and Quebec to launch ENCQOR—an important public-private partnership in the 5G market. ENCQOR, a 5G test bed that will advance the development of 5G networking solutions and next-generation technologies and applications.

I think this group knows better than anyone the impact of 5G, what it means for SMEs and innovators, our economy and Canadians.

While on the topic of 5G, I can tell you that today, we are launching two consultations that will support 5G deployment. We are proposing to release an additional 1 GHz of millimeter-wave spectrum and also launching a consultative process that will advance us toward the 3500 MHz auction. As you know,the 3500 MHz spectrum is going to be one of the preferred bands for 5G services. The consultation reflects our commitment to get this spectrum into the marketplace in a timely way that also supports competition. We know that industry wants access to this spectrum.

Our proposals align with international trends in the band and represent an important step toward ensuring 3500 will be available to meet consumer demand for 5G. More broadly, today my department published our spectrum release roadmap for the next five years. It’s a big part of our commitment to making the right spectrum available at the right time to meet current and future demand.

We plan to hold three spectrum auctions over the next three years to support 5G.

I’m referring to the 600 MHz auction in 2019—a band that has shown potential for 5G wireless and also well-suited for rural and remote areas.

The 3500 MHz auction in 2020, which will also be key to delivering 5G services.

And finally the millimetre wave auction in 2021, which is prime real estate for 5G networks. In the meantime, we have redesigned the developmental licence program to help innovators get temporary access to spectrum.

And it’s working. People have snapped these licences up at a much higher rate, allowing them to test and validate solutions that advance Canada’s 5G leadership.

So the second angle we are focused on is coverage. In other words: Is the service available where I want it?

Over the past 18 months, we have rolled out our Connect to Innovate program with great success. More than 800 rural and remote communities across Canada will soon be fully equipped to participate in the digital economy thanks to this program. Congratulations to the service providers in the room for their incredible interest in this program. It really is a great example of what we can do for Canadians when we work together.

Additionally, the CRTC is pursuing its new objective of getting broadband to homes and businesses with a speed of 50 megabits per second.

Complementing these initiatives is a Budget 2018 commitment to support projects relating to low-Earth-orbit satellites and next-generation rural broadband.

Low-Earth-orbit broadband technologies are still developing, but offer great potential. Our 100-million-dollar investment will allow industry to develop such technologies. Ultimately, this could lead to improved broadband coverage and capacity for Canadians.

The final piece of the puzzle — as it is in many industries — is price.

In the case of telecom: are the high-quality services available to Canadians across the country affordable? That’s what we’re aiming for.

To bring down costs, we all know the CRTC has banned cell phone unlocking fees. Canadians paid nearly 38 million dollars in unlocking fees in 2016.

I’m also pleased to say that, as part of the 600 megahertz auction, we are setting aside 43 percent of the spectrum for regional competitors. That’s a huge push for more competition, and the lower prices that such competition brings. We’re very happy about this.

Finally, with respect to price, I am pleased to announce Connecting Families. It’s a new initiative that will help hundreds of thousands of low-income Canadians get online so they, too, can participate in the digital economy. And we’ll even provide them with a computer if they need it through our Computers for Schools program.

I want to recognize Bell, Cogeco, Rogers, Sasktel, Shaw, Telus and Vidéotron for stepping up—offering low-cost home Internet service plans for hundreds of thousands of Canadians. We truly appreciate your efforts and collaborative spirit.

I need to give a special shout-out to Telus for its leadership.

Ladies and gentlemen, we all agree that all Canadians need access to high-quality, broad-reaching, and affordable Internet services. Mesdames et Messieurs, nous sommes tous d’accord pour dire que TOUS les Canadiens doivent avoir accès à des services Internet de haute qualité, abordables et de longue portée.

And as with any competitive market, more can be done. More must be done.

I won’t rest until we achieve a reality where kids in northern and remote communities have the same connectivity privilege as kids here in Toronto—kids like my two girls. It is imperative that we remember many Canadians are not fully engaged in the digital economy.

Je ne serai pas satisfait tant que nous n’aurons pas agi pour que les enfants des communautés nordiques et éloignées aient les mêmes privilèges que les enfants d’ici à Toronto — des enfants comme mes deux filles. Il faut garder à l’esprit que bon nombre de Canadiens ne participent pas pleinement à l’économie numérique.

Whether it be an issue of quality, coverage or price, I encourage your industry to keep swinging for the fences. Together, we will make this country a global centre for innovation—one that focuses on driving economic growth, creating middle class jobs and improving the lives of all Canadians.

Thank you. Je vous remercie.

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