Mark Goldberg

Toward achieving the service objective

Among the most widely mis-reported decisions to come out of the CRTC was the characterization of Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-496, Modern telecommunications services – The path forward for Canada’s digital economy, issued in late December 2016.

Some headlines said “In Historic Decision, Canada Declares Internet Access a Fundamental Right for All,” going on to mislead their readers with “National telecom agency promises to connect all Canadians, from Quebec to Yukon, to high-speed broadband.”

That isn’t what the CRTC said in December 2016, so as a result, some were disappointed with CRTC’s policy issued today to begin to establish a fund to increase the availability of broadband in under served areas. Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2018-377, Development of the Commission’s Broadband Fund, states very clearly what the 2016 Policy actually set in motion:

In Telecom Regulatory Policy 2016-496, the Commission established the following universal service objective: Canadians, in urban areas as well as in rural and remote areas, have access to voice services and broadband Internet access services, on both fixed and mobile wireless networks. To help provide Canadians with access to these services, the Commission established the Broadband Fund, which will provide $750 million over five years.

In this decision, the Commission addresses matters related to the Broadband Fund, including its governance, operating, and accountability frameworks, as well as eligibility and assessment criteria for proposed projects.

Let’s be clear. In December 2016, the CRTC set out objectives. As related to broadband service, those objectives were:

  • Canadian residential and business fixed broadband Internet access service subscribers should be able to access speeds of at least 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload, and to be able to choose to subscribe to a service offering with an unlimited data allowance; and
  • the latest generally deployed mobile wireless technology should be available not only in Canadian homes and businesses, but on as many major transportation roads as possible in Canada.

As of the end of 2016, the CRTC’s 2017 Monitoring Report shows that objective is achieved for 84% of Canadian households. The 2016 policy set targets for the objective to be met in 90% of Canadian households by the end of 2021, and for 100% of Canadian households, 10 to 15 years following the December 21, 2016 issuance of Telecom Regulatory Policy 2016-496.

Much will be written on today’s regulatory policy release; it might help to start with a clear understanding of what objectives were actually set out in 2016.

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