Mark Goldberg

#CTS19: The closing keynote address

Over the coming weeks, I will post some of the sessions from The 2019 Canadian Telecom Summit. Today’s post is the first in the series.

On June 5, the closing keynote address at The 2019 Canadian Telecom Summit was delivered by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains. Following his speech, I had a chance to sit down and have a chat with him, as captured in the video.

Here are his remarks. Please check against delivery:

Thank you very much, Katherine, for the kind introduction, and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It really is a delight to be here again at the Telecom Summit. And I was just speaking with Mark earlier before. It’s three years in a row, and it really is a testament to this incredible Summit and it really is a reflection of the fact that our government believes in the future of the telecommunications sector and what it means to the Canadian economy.

And I can tell you right now and all of us understand and appreciate this from our own experiences, that the telecommunications sector is one that touches Canadians every day, not just delivering laughs and tears to our living rooms, but also business opportunities, innovation and livelihoods to our communities.

It’s no secret that this is an election year, so I feel like I should report on something I committed to when I was here in 2017. I said my priorities would be to improve the coverage, quality, and price of telecommunications services for Canadians.

J’avais mentionné que mes priorités étaient d’améliorer la couverture, la qualité, et surtout les prix des télécommunications pour les Canadiens.

Let’s start with quality: I think we can all agree that 5G is a game changer. We also envision that 5G will be a massive job creator, and an economic driver—expected to add 40 billion dollars annually to our economy by 2026. Our Government is embarking on a long-term vision to position Canada as a global leader so that future generations of Canadians will always benefit from the best technologies the world has to offer.

Last year, I stood here and outlined my department’s spectrum outlook for 2018 to 2022. Today, I’m pleased to report that we’re right on track.

Last year we announced a $66.7 million investment in the $400 million ENCQOR 5G project. Today, thanks to this investment and collaboration, small and medium-sized businesses are able to access research and technology to help them innovate and create jobs.

Earlier this year, we committed nearly 200 million dollars over 5 years to modernize spectrum equipment so that our networks stay world class. And today we have more good news to share with you.

We will be publishing two decisions and a consultation at 4:00 today that support our commitment to helping industry roll out 5G services. These include a decision on changes to the 3500 MHz band, along with a consultation on the auction rules for 2020. We have also decided to make over 7 GHz of millimeter wave spectrum available for licence-exempt use this year, and another 4.85 GHz for licensed use in 2021. Finally, we are proposing to auction additional 5G spectrum in the 3800 MHz band in 2022.

All these measures — the millimetre wave and 3500 and 3800 bands — will allow our telecom providers to provide 5G services to Canadians in a timely manner.

I also want to reassure you that today’s decisions reflect our government’s strong determination to ensuring rural Canadians can fully participate in the digital economy.

Je veux aussi vous rassurer au sujet de notre engagement envers les canadiens des régions rurales. Nous sommes déterminés à ce qu’ils puissent participer pleinement à l’économie numérique.

Which brings me to the issue of coverage.

We simply cannot afford to have a digital economy and society that leaves some of us behind. That’s why I’m happy to report we’re making important progress.

Just recently, we concluded the 600 megahertz auction. We were very happy with the number of regional carriers who won licenses. This will improve coverage in both rural and urban areas.

I am also very happy that on Monday, Ian Scott, Chair of the CRTC, announced the call for applications for its $750 million dollar Broadband fund.

To further help Canadians in rural areas, we also made an ambitious new nationwide broadband commitment this year. In Budget 2019, we committed to every single household and business in Canada having access to high-speed Internet by 2030. Working with provinces, territories, and industry, our Government is planning to deliver $5 to $6 billion in new investments to achieve this target. This will build upon the success of the Connect to Innovate program, which will bring high-speed Internet to more than 900 rural and remote communities, including 190 Indigenous communities.

Finally, last Fall, we announced the Accelerated Investment Incentive for investments made in fibre connectivity, wireless service and broadband infrastructure, that will particularly benefit more remote communities.

Cette semaine, ma collègue, la nouvelle ministre du développement économique rural va rencontrer ses homologues provinciaux et territoriaux responsables de l’internet haute-vitesse, pour parler de collaboration autour de la stratégie nationale de connectivité.

We have also been listening to the millions of Canadians who have been sending us a message loud and clear. They need more affordable Internet and cellphone plans.

Nous avons écouté les commentaires des milliers de Canadiens qui nous ont écrit, et ils ont été très clairs. Ils ont besoin de services de téléphonie et d’internet plus abordables.

We know that in areas where there is strong regional competition, prices are up to 33% cheaper. That’s why we are pleased that regional providers more than doubled their share of 600 MHz spectrum following our auction which ended in April. Competition is the best way to lower internet and cell phone plans for Canadians, but it’s not the only one.

La compétition est un des meilleurs moyens de faire baisser les prix, mais ce n’est pas le seul moyen.

Through our Connecting Families initiative we have so far provided $10 per month Internet to 20,000 low-income families and over 25,000 refurbished computers to households that need them most.

We are not taking our foot off the pedal.

I will say the same thing here I’ve told you folks in meetings: I will be hot on the heels of all of you until Canadians have access to cell phone and internet connections at more affordable prices.

Just a few months ago, we proposed a policy direction that would require the CRTC to consider competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation. After announcing this, we received 60,000 letters of support from ordinary Canadians – an overwhelming indication of broad public support. And we’ve heard the industry’s concerns around the value of their investments. And we’ve heard the industry’s concerns. Your investments will continue to be valued. We didn’t build some of the world’s most advanced and efficient telecom networks by magic.

But we cannot ignore the fact that Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world.

Over the long-term, the proposed new policy direction to the CRTC will help shape a more consumer-friendly telecommunications market in Canada.

And finally, we need to rebuild the trust of Canadians in the digital world they now live in.

Two weeks ago, I launched Canada’s new Digital Charter that will guide all government data and digital-related policies, programs and legislation. Its first principle is Universal Access—something everyone here can agree on.

In tomorrow’s highly competitive global and digital economy, we won’t be able to compete if half of us are left sitting on the bench. That’s why we must all work together to bring Canadians better and more affordable telecommunication services, wherever they are.

We have already come a long way, but there is much more we can and must do to give Canadians the best chance to participate, compete and benefit from the digital world we now all live in.

They deserve it. And together, we can do it.

Thank you very much. Merci

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