Mark Goldberg

An easy way to increase rural broadband speeds

In speaking with some operators of rural fixed wireless networks, it appears there may be an easy way for the government to help ratchet up broadband speeds.

A number of us in rural markets are using fixed wireless service. These days, one of the biggest challenges facing internet service providers (ISPs) is the heavy use by every user. While there may be enough capacity from the tower to home, many rural ISPs have capacity issues from the towers to the backbone network.

Ideally, those towers are connected by fibre, but in many cases, that umbilical is itself a wireless connection.

That is where Canada’s Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) may be able to help.

A year and a half ago, the Department undertook a “Consultation on Licence Fees for Fixed Point-to-Point Radio Systems”.

Recall, Canada’s high spectrum fees have been cited in the past as a contributing factor to higher telecommunications costs and prices compared to international peers.

Based on that consultation, in July 2019, the Department issued its “Decision on the Licence Fee Framework for Fixed Point-to-Point Systems”, dramatically reducing the license fees for rural point-to-point radio links by an order of magnitude.

The original consultation document contemplated starting the new licensing regime in April 2020. That should have been a good measure to help rural ISPs. However, when the final Decision was released, the implementation date was pushed out by a full year, to April 1, 2021.

Perhaps ISED can accelerate its timetable, making the new rates effective immediately, enabling ISPs to increase capacity and improve rural broadband services while the 2020 construction season is still a viable option.

The consultation is complete; the decision has been made. All that is left is for ISED to crank up the dial and implement the lower rates on its own original schedule. Even if ISED’s internal administrative systems aren’t fully ready for the new rates, there aren’t so many that license fees couldn’t be calculated manually.

This should be an easy fix. It’s a pricing change.

ISED should implement the new point-to-point spectrum pricing effective July 1, two weeks from now.

How many rural households could have access to faster broadband speeds and increased capacity in such an easy manner?

Could there be a simpler, more cost-effective, government stimulus program for rural broadband?

1 comment to An easy way to increase rural broadband speeds