Mark Goldberg


www.mhgoldberg.com





Fox Group Dispatch

Toward a rural broadband strategy

Among Monday’s changes to Cabinet, Prime Minister Trudeau named Bernadette Jordan as Minister of Rural Economic Development.

As Minister of Rural Economic Development, Minister Jordan will oversee the creation of a rural development strategy to spur economic growth and create good, middle class jobs in rural Canada. She will also take action to bring high-speed internet to more rural households and businesses …

So now, we have yet another Minister and department that will “take action to bring high-speed internet to more rural households and businesses”, presumably supplementing the actions being taken by the CRTC and other agencies at federal, provincial and regional levels of government.

Among the most significant findings of the Auditor General’s report last fall was the lack of a comprehensive strategy. The Auditor General’s report indicates that Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) agreed with its recommendation:

1.37 Recommendation. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada should develop a strategy that

  • defines the minimum level of reliable and high-quality Internet service to be made available to Canadians;
  • sets clear timelines for achieving this level of service;
  • estimates proper resourcing, including financial and technical resources, as well as analysis of technologies and preferred options for improving broadband deployment cost-effectively; and
  • monitors whether the improved access leads to the adoption of those Internet services.

The Department’s response. Agreed. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will develop a strategy, particularly in light of the following:

  • the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s decision in December 2016 declaring broadband as a basic service; and
  • the June 2018 announcement in which the government committed to reviewing Canada’s communications legislation, including the legislative tools needed to promote universal access.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada already has comprehensive work under way.

The Auditor General also found that ISED did not implement its
broadband improvement program in a way that ensured the maximum broadband expansion for the public money spent. The “Connectivity Funding” section of the Auditor General’s report has important information that is relevant to the implementation of broadband subsidy programs, including the CRTC.

As a new department of rural economic development arrives on the scene, expected to “take action to bring high-speed internet to more rural households and businesses”, will we first see the kind of comprehensive strategy sought by the Auditor General? Will that strategy be primed by ISED or the new department?

How will we ensure “the maximum broadband expansion for the public money spent”?

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